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Diamond Sponsor

October 2011

Think Outside the Box:

Customizing Autodesk Products

Also in this issue: • Codeless Revit Customization • Playing by the iLogic Rules • A Wicked Primer

$8.00 US

www. a u g i . c o m

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6 4


Editor’s NOTE

27 power up with selection and search sets

6 Managing customization files 31 roof design simplified with buildedge 9 understanding the customize user interface (CUI)

34 Codeless Revit Customization

17 working with multiple coordinate systems

43 careful customization

20 playing by the ilogic rules

special feature

23 get a grip!

46 all about licensing



columns 13 HEADS UP 15 autodesk insider

AUGI Talks with Rob Cohee

26 Inside track 40 a wicked primer

Cover Image: 230 Dwellings in Ørestad, Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo Copyright © 2011– Daniel Hurtubise. Reuse of full or partial copyright image, in any form, without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. Visit Daniel’s blog at Autodesk, AutoCAD, Autodesk Architectural Desktop, Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Building Systems, Autodesk Civil Design, Autodesk Inventor and DWF are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc. in the U.S.A. and/or in certain other countries. All other brand names, product names, or trademarks belong to their respective holders.

october 2011


Editor’s Note

AUGIWorld www.augiworld. com Editors Editor-in-Chief David Harrington - Copy Editor Marilyn Law - Layout Editor Tim Varnau -


ej læser! That’s “Hello reader” in Danish! This wonderful Content Managers AutoCAD - Curt Moreno issue of AUGIWorld has a very interesting project in Copen- AutoCAD Architecture - Melinda Heavrin hagen on the cover. Our theme for this issue is customization AutoCAD Civil 3D - Christopher Fugitt AutoCAD MAP - Andra Marquardt and that façade looks like a great example of customization. Using Autodesk tools AutoCAD MEP - Beth Powell Insider - David Mills in creative ways really can show off your customization skills. Some of our authors Autodesk Column: Built - James Salmon have taken this idea and given us some great insight into how they customize their Column: Heads Up - William Troeak Column: Inside Track - Erik Lewis programs to suit their needs. So, you ready? Then let’s run down the lineup! Inventor - John Evans Navisworks - Darren Young Revit API - Scott Ebert Revit Architecture - Jay Zallan Revit MEP - Todd Shackelford Revit Platform - Lonnie Cumpton Revit Structure - Phil Russo

Matt Worland gets us started off with everyone’s favorite CAD program, AutoCAD, and how best to manage the multiple customization files AutoCAD uses. Then Melinda Heavrin takes on the CUI Editor and how one can customize it for AutoCAD Architecture. And William Troeak keeps us up to date in this Advertising / Reprint Sales David Harrington - month’s Heads Up! This month our Autodesk Insider is Rob Cohee. As the Autodesk Manufacturing Evangelist, he is on the front line in the manufacturing space (I’m glad he is on our side!) Then Richard Sincovec tackles how to work with multiple coordinate systems in AutoCAD Civil 3D. And Paul Munford lays down the rules of play for iLogic in Inventor. Mitchell Voss finally gets a grip on symbols and more in Revit MEP. Mark Kiker brings the latest industry news in this month’s Inside Track. Then Bonnie Gorman powers up Navisworks Manage selection and search sets. And Aaron Dietzen shows off a new tool for simplifying roof design in Revit Structure.

AUGI Board of Directors President David Harrington Senior Vice President Bill Adams Vice President Peter Jamtgaard Treasurer Desiree Ratley Secretary Melanie Perry Directors R. Robert Bell Shaun Bryant Donnie Gladfelter Matt Worland Scott Wilcox

Ibrahim Hakki again takes on Revit Architecture to examine how to do codeless customization. Then we have James Salmon who brings a wicked primer in the Published by: monthly BUILT column. And Tom Cipolla continues the customization theme AUGIWorld is published by Autodesk User Group International, Inc. AUGI makes no warwith careful consideration in 3ds Max. ranty for the use of its products and assumes And to close we have a special feature by Franklin Ryan on CAD Management and Licensing with Autodesk products. There you go, another great issue of AUGIWorld awaits your eyes. And hopefully in 2012, it will again be at your fingertips…enjoy! David Harrington


no responsibility for any errors which may appear in this publication nor does it make a commitment to update the information contained herein. AUGIWorld is Copyright ©2011 AUGI. No information in this magazine may be reproduced without expressed written permission from AUGI. All registered trademarks and trademarks included in this magazine are held by their respective companies. Every attempt was made to include all trademarks and registered trademarks where indicated by their companies.

October 2011


Power to Perform

Want to get the most out of your Autodesk® applications? HP Z Workstations come in a range of choices to match your design needs. Built on the latest Intel® Xeon® processors, these systems are ideal for AutoCAD®, Revit®, 3ds Max®, Maya®, Civil 3D®, Inventor® and more. Find the one that is right for you.

Innovate on HP Z Workstations © 2011 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. The only warranties for HP products and services are set forth in the express warranty statements accompanying such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. HP shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein. Intel, the Intel Logo, Xeon, and Xeon Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. Microsoft, Windows, and Vista are U.S. registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.

product focus



by: Matt Worland

Managing Customization Files


n several discussion forums I have read about the frustration CAD users feel when their CAD manager has locked down many parts of AutoCAD®. The CAD manager is generally trying to make his job easier by limiting the areas that typical users break and then need help fixing their machine. Managing company standard interfaces while allowing users the freedom to customize AutoCAD in a controlled environment can be a difficult task.

AutoCAD is a highly customizable software and no two drafter/ designers work the same. Some users enjoy typing while others are more comfortable with picks and clicks. It is unrealistic and unproductive to expect, or worse, force all AutoCAD users to operate the product in the same way. The ability to quickly set up a machine to an individual’s liking, while maintaining company standards, is beneficial. Recently my hard drive went “poof ” and was unrecoverable. I hope this article will help get your AutoCAD environment up and running as quickly as I was able to, in the event you need to work on a different machine or, worse, rebuild one. We will review one solution using CUI files, profiles, and folders. A little setup in the beginning will save a lot of time and frustration later 6

on. Whether you are getting a new machine or upgrading your software, properly managing your customization files will lessen your down time and get you back up and designing quickly. Benefits of using Main, Enterprise, and Partial CUI files

Out of the box, AutoCAD uses only the main customization file. Many users are content with using the acad.cuix as their main customization file. For many years I would customize my acad.cui file, only to redo or transfer the settings when a new release came out. While maintaining my customizations, I would attempt to maintain, integrate, and protect the customizations of the company. After trying several options I have settled on using an option that incorporates the main, enterprise, and partial CUI files. The Main CUI is easily customized by the users, who can modify their cuix file at will. It is also a great place for users to store their own settings and workspaces. This should be a CUI file other than the acad.cuix file. I create a new cuix file named User.cuix. Creating a User.cuix allows users to easily migrate from release to release, but also from computer to computer. The Enterprise CUI is good for settings that you don’t want users to modify. I place the acad.cuix in this category for ease of upOctober 2011

grading to a future release of AutoCAD. Often, users modify the interface in many ways and if they modify the default acad.cuix they will need to transfer, or more likely, redo their settings in the upgraded acad.cuix. That process wastes time and increases the chance of missing settings in the new file. Instead I copy the default acad.cuix from “C:\Users\matt_worland\AppData\ Roaming\Autodesk\AutoCAD_2012\R18.2\enu\Support\ acad.CUIX” to a network location and set it as my Enterprise Customization File. I believe your company menus should also be set to “read only.” Placing your company’s cuix file as a partial to your Enterprise customization file sets an additional layer of security to your company standards. In Figure 1 you can see the settings in the user’s profile for the CUI files.

Figure 1


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our company.cuix file is loaded. If we review the network setup we discussed earlier, we have an acad.cuix file that resides in a network location and our company.cuix file that loads as a partial to that. We will also create a company.mnl file. Mnl files are easy to use and can be created and modified in Notepad. By creating a file with the same name as the cuix file and with an mnl extension, AutoCAD will load and run the LISP code inside. Figure 2 provides code that will add the company’s paths to the support path listing in the current profile. The code will store a variable for a user’s local folder and the company’s network folder, then checks to see if current list of paths includes a network path for a LISP and BLOCKS folder. If not, they will be added. The LISP in Figure 2 will continue to modify some general settings such as the location of Autosave files, Log Files, and a location for recorded actions using the Action Recorder tool. It will also set the main cui to a local User.cuix and the Enterprise cui to the network stored acad.cuix. Network and User Folders

The aforementioned files and folders can be stored anywhere. I have chosen to have a folder created under My Documents for each user. This can easily be accessed by the user and AutoLISP. Figure 3 shows some folders that are specific to each user.

Figure 2


Profiles also help users define their AutoCAD environment. CAD managers will find it time consuming to ensure all users have the company-supplied support paths in their profiles. In the past a new user would receive a machine without setup by the CAD manager. Many times I would receive a call stating that none of the buttons or menus would work. When AutoCAD was installed, the company’s standard paths were not set in their profile. To alleviate this we can create an mnl file and use some Visual LISP to ensure our company’s support paths are added every time October 2011

Having users store their files in this structure makes it easier to remember which files they need to backup. If they have regularly exported profiles and a copy of their acad.pgp, the AutoCAD environment should be easy to restore. These folders can all be created with your AutoCAD deployment image or you

Figure 3 7

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ments. You can modify the LISP to include other folders by adding them to the list (list “ActionRecorder” “AutoSave” “Plot” “Profiles” “Temp” “ToolPalette”). To automate this further, you can have AutoLISP gather the user’s document folder by using the (getMyDocs) function in Figure 5. Figure 6 provides an example of the network settings we have been discussing. Some others folders to consider are: Linetypes, Plot Styles, Plotters, and Tool Palettes. The paths for these folders could be added to our profiles via the Visual LISP code in our Company.mnl . Be sure to check out the AutoLISP AUGI forums if you need assistance adding more options to your mnl file.

Figure 4


Figure 5

can also add some Visual LISP to your mnl file that will create these local folders. Figure 4 provides LISP code that will create a CAD folder for the user matt_worland in the root of Docu-

By creating a central network location for all company customizations as well as a local location for each user’s customization, we can create a productive AutoCAD environment that can be set up with ease on each machine. With a little give and take from the end user and the CAD manager, AutoCAD users can have their highly customizable world and still integrate standard company settings. It’s never fun when we need to set up a new computer, but if we have prepared for the occasion, it can be a less daunting task to be up and designing again. Matt Worland has been designing and programming in AutoCAD since R13. He is currently working in Denver, Colorado as a designer, programmer, and CAD IT. He enjoys learning and teaching others the power of Visual LISP and automation. Please contact Matt if you have any questions or comments, he can be reached at cadhelp@mattworland. com

Figure 6


October 2011


AutoCAD Architecture

Understanding the Customize User Interface (CUI)

product focus

by: Melinda Heavrin

Here’s a guide to making the interface in AutoCAD Architecture uniquely yours


he Customize User Interface (CUI) in AutoCAD® Architecture allows you to tailor your drawing environment to suit your needs. Before you start customizing your own menus, toolbars, and workspaces, you should familiarize yourself with the customization environment. Open the Customize User Interface Editor by clicking the Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel, and then User Interface (see Figure 1).  Once you have opened the Customize User Interface (CUI) Editor, you can view the contents of the loaded customization files by expanding the elements in the tree structure and viewing the properties of the elements by selecting them. You can also select the Transfer tab to see how to migrate or transfer customizations, and select the Customize tab to see how to create or modify user interface elements. Once you are familiar with the environment, you can start to take advantage of the capabilities of the tools.

In pane. The Workspace Contents and Properties panes will be displayed.

Let’s take a look at some of the great customizations that can be performed in the CUI in AutoCAD Architecture. Since there are so many possibilities, we will concentrate on workspaces, toolbars, and commands for the purposes of this article.

The new workspace you have created can be set as the default workspace. To do this, click the Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel, and then select User Interface.  In the Customize User Interface Editor, Customize tab, in the Customizations In  <file name>  pane, click the plus sign (+) next to Workspaces to expand it. Right-click the workspace you want to set as default and select Set Default then click Apply. It is important to note that in the Network Deployment Wizard, the main and enterprise CUIx files can be specified. If the main CUIx file has a default workspace set, that default workspace will be set as the current workspace when the file is loaded into AutoCAD Architecture for the first time.

Figure 1: Customize User Interface

Customize Workspaces

The CUI Editor allows you to create or modify workspaces that have precise properties associated with the application and drawing windows, as well as user interface elements (toolbars, menus, ribbon tabs, and palettes). You can customize it by selecting a workspace from the Workspaces node in the Customizations

October 2011

If you wish to create a new workspace, begin by clicking the Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel and then select User Interface.  In the Customize User Interface Editor, Customize tab, in the Customizations In <file name> pane, right-click the Workspaces tree node and select New Workspace (see Figure 2). A new workspace (named Workspace1) is now placed at the bottom of the Workspaces tree node. Next, enter a new name over the default name Workspace1. In the Workspace Contents pane, click Customize Workspace (see Figure 3). In the Customizations In <file name> pane, click the plus sign (+) next to the tree nodes to expand them. Click the check box next to each user interface element that you want to add to the workspace. The selected user interface elements are added to the workspace. In the Workspace Contents pane, click Done and then click Apply.

If you wish to modify an existing workspace, you can do this by clicking the Customize Workspace button in the Workspace Contents pane. After you click Customize Workspace in 9

product focus

AutoCAD Architecture


Figure 3: Customize Workspace

Figure 2: New Workspace

the Workspace Contents pane, the Customizations In <file name> pane lists the user interface elements that can be added to the workspace currently being modified. Check boxes are displayed next to each user interface element in the loaded CUIx files. You use the check boxes to add or remove user interface elements from a workspace. You can use the Transfer tab of the Customize User Interface Editor to import a workspace to the main CUIx file. Workspaces that are in partially loaded CUIx files must be transferred to the main CUIx file if you want to set that workspace current. To import a workspace to a main CUIx file, begin by clicking the Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel, and then select User Interface.  The Transfer tab is displayed, with the main CUIx file displayed in the Customizations In <file name> pane (left side). In the Customize User Interface Editor, Transfer tab, in the Customizations In <file name> pane (right side), select the Open Customization File button. In the Open dialog box, locate and select the customization file that contains the workspace you wish to add to the main CUIx file. In the Customizations In <file name> pane (right side), drag the workspace from the CUIx file to the Workspaces node of the main CUIx file in the Customizations In <file name> pane (left side) and click Apply.


Customizing Toolbars

Simple toolbar customizations can make your daily drawing tasks much more efficient. For example, you can consolidate frequently used commands and controls onto one toolbar to give you a “onestop-shop” for all your drawing needs. You can even create your own toolbars and flyout toolbars. You can also create a toolbar from scratch, create a copy of an existing toolbar or create a toolbar from an existing pull-down menu. Please note that sub-menu items are not included when a toolbar is created from a pull-down menu. By default, a new toolbar is displayed in all workspaces. To create a new toolbar, begin by clicking the Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel, and then select User Interface.  In the Customize User Interface Editor, Customize tab, right-click Toolbars in the Customizations In <file name> pane. Select New Toolbar (see Figure 4). A new toolbar (named Toolbar1) is placed at the bottom of the Toolbars tree. Next, right-click Toolbar1 and select Rename. Enter a new toolbar name. Now select the new toolbar in the tree view and update the Properties pane. In the Description box, enter a description for the toolbar. In the Default Display box, specify if the toolbar should be displayed by default when the CUIx file is loaded as a partial customization file. In the Orientation box, specify the orientation of the toolbar. In the Default X Location box, enter a number. In the Default Y Location box, enter a number. In the Rows box, enter October 2011

Figure 4: New toolbar


AutoCAD Architecture

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Figure 5: Customize toolbar

the number of rows for an undocked toolbar. In the Aliases box, enter an alias for the toolbar. In the Command List pane, drag the command you want to add to a location just below the name of the toolbar in the Customizations In <file name> pane. Select Apply (see Figure 5). You can now customize your new toolbar using the Toolbar Preview pane. Begin by clicking the  Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel, and then select User Interface. Now, select the new toolbar. In the Command List pane, drag the command you want to add to the toolbar and drop it on the toolbar’s preview in the Toolbar Preview pane. You can control where the command is placed by releasing the mouse button when the black vertical splitter bar is displayed. Continue to do this until all commands you wish to add are on the toolbar and then select Apply.

Customizations In <file name>  pane. You will be prompted to convert a copy of the toolbar to a ribbon panel when the toolbar is dropped. Customizing Commands

You can easily create, edit, and reuse commands. The Customize tab of the CUI Editor allows you to add any command listed in the Command List pane to a toolbar or menu. You can create a new command from scratch, copy an existing command to create a new command, or edit the properties of an existing command within the CUI. When the properties of a command in the Command List pane are changed, the command is updated for all user interface elements that reference the command.

AutoCAD Architecture allows you to customize toolbars that are displayed in the application when the CUI Editor is open. You can simply drag commands from the Command List pane and drop them directly onto a visible toolbar that is docked or floating in the application window. You can also reposition, remove, or copy commands on a visible toolbar while the CUI Editor is open. You can create new ribbon panels from a toolbar by dragging existing toolbars from the Toolbars node under the Customizations In <file name> pane to the Panels node under the ribbon in the

To create a new command in the CUI, begin by clicking the Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel, then User Interface.  In the CUI Editor, Customize tab, Command List pane, select Create a New Command (see Figure 6). This will display a new command, named Command1, in both the Command List pane and the Properties pane. In the Properties pane, enter a name for the command in the Name box. It is important to note that the name is displayed as a tooltip or menu name when the command is added to a user interface element. In the Description box, enter a description for the command. The description will be displayed in a tooltip or on the status bar. In the Extended Help File box,

October 2011 11

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AutoCAD Architecture


To edit a command, begin by clicking the Manage tab of the ribbon, Customization panel, and then select User Interface.  In the Customize User Interface Editor, Customize tab, Command List pane, select the command you wish to edit. You can also select the command you wish to edit in the Customizations In  <file name> pane tree view. In the Properties Pane, enter a name for the command in the Name box. In the Description box, enter a description for the command. In the Extended Help File box, enter the name of the file and ID to use for the extended help for the command. In the Command Display Name box, enter the name of the command you want to display for the command. In the Macro box, enter a macro for the command. In the Tags box, enter the tags you want to use when search for commands with the Search field of the application menu. In the Element ID box, enter an element ID for the command. Note that the element ID is for new commands only—you cannot modify the element ID of an existing command. You can remove a command by right-clicking over the command and selecting remove; however, a command can only be removed when it is not being referenced by a user interface element, such as a toolbar or menu. It is extremely important to note that there is no way to undo the removal of a command from inside the CUI Editor. If you accidentally remove the wrong command, the best thing to do is click Cancel, but this will also undo any other changes that you might have made. If you already made several changes to the CUIx file and do not want to lose the changes that you already made, you can open the backup CUIx file that is automatically created after a change is made to a CUIx file from the Transfer tab (see Figure 7) and then proceed to recover the command that was accidentally removed. This applies to other user interface elements as well.

Figure 6: New command


The Customize User Interface is a valuable tool in AutoCAD Architecture. This article only touches the surface of the vast possibilities offered by this tool. Try the customizations in the article and when you feel comfortable with these, try some more! AutoCAD Architecture’s interface can quickly become everything you need it to be with a few simple customizations.

Figure 7: Transfer tab

enter the name of the file and ID to use for the extended help for the command. In the Command Display Name box, enter the name of the command you want to display for the command. In the Macro box, enter a macro for the command. In the Tags box, enter the tags you want to use when searching for commands in the Search field of the application menu. In the Element ID box, enter an element ID for the command.


Melinda Heavrin is a CAD Coordinator & Facility Planner for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky. She has been using AutoCAD Architecture since release 2000. Melinda can be reached for comments and questions at

October 2011


Updates, Service Packs and Top Known Issues obtained from product pages at AutoCAD/ACA/AMEP (2011-Aug-03) Understanding Previous Version support for Autodesk Point products (2011-Aug-03) Understanding Previous Version support for Autodesk Suite products (2011-Aug-09) Understanding Cascade Licensing for Autodesk Products

October October2011 2011

(2011-Aug-12) Building Design Suite Premium/Ultimate 2012 doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t license AutoCAD 2012

(2011-Aug-16) Support for AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT on Apple computers

(2011-Aug-16) How is AutoCAD for Mac different from AutoCAD?

(2011-Aug-26) AutoCAD Plant 3D 2012 Object Enablers

(2011-Aug-16) System Requirements for AutoCAD for Mac

(2011-Aug-30) AutoCAD Architecture 2012 & AutoCAD MEP 2012 Localization Hotfix: Corner Windows


Heads Up

by: William Troeak 13


Heads Up (2011-Aug-31) Citrix Installation and User Configuration for AutoCAD Plant 3D and AutoCAD P&ID

Revit Architecture/MEP/ Structure (2011-Aug-10) Revit 2011 or 2012 products crash when attempting to replace material render appearance

Autodesk Inventor/ Fusion/Simulation/Alias (2011-Aug-31) Autodesk ventor 2012 Service Pack 1


(2011-Sept-01) LiveUpdate fails to apply service pack on Inventor 2012 or Inventor LT 2012 (2011-Sept-01) Error 1402 installing the SP1 for Inventor 2012 on XP 32 bit machine

Fusion (2011-Aug-18) Autodesk Inventor Fusion Technology 2012 Service Pack 1 (2011-Sept-01) Autodesk Inventor Publisher 2012 Service Pack 2

(2011-Aug-08) Error Message – Errors when launching from Pro/ Engineer or CATIA v5 (2011-Aug-08) Mesh – Analysis Types that cannot be Continued from a Saved Iteration after a ReMesh (2011-Aug-08) Messing Error – Model or Geometric Query Failure (2011-Aug-08) Heat Transfer: Transient heat transfer converges to a different temperature field than steady-state (2011-Aug-08) Error Message – Dissimilar Contacting Fluids Detected (2011-Aug-12) Error Message – Unable to write Signal File

(2011-Aug-15) Resolving unexpected flow near distributed resistance regions (2011-Aug-15) Alternative Meshing Strategy when Transferring Results to FEA (2011-Aug-15) Log and Output Files for Troubleshooting

Simulation (2011-Aug-02) Error Message – Connection and Communication Errors (2011-Aug-02) Autodesk Simulation CFD 2012 DVD Insert (2011-Aug-08) Motion: Total Torque appears to lag behind Hydraulic Torque in an Angular Motion Simulation 14

(2011-Aug-17) Turbulence terms change during thermal-only stage of de-coupled simulation (2011-Aug-17) Reducing localized velocity flow instability

Alias (2011-Aug-02) Alias 2012 SP1

3DS Max/Maya/Showcase (2011-Aug-12) Composite 2012 Hotfix

(2011-Aug-22) Hotfix – Discrepancy and high density tessellation noticed using Showcase 2012 with imported JT Models

Multiple Autodesk Products (2011-Aug-01) 2012: FLEXnet feature codes for Autodesk products (2011-Aug-01) 2012: FLEXnet feature codes for Autodesk products (2011-Aug-19) How to remove all Autodesk products from a Windows system (2011-Aug-29) Service Pack 2 for Factory Design Suite 2012 William Troeak is an Architectural Technical Specialist for U.S. CAD with over 10 years of experience in the architectural industry. Prior to joining U.S. CAD, William worked as a drafter, job captain and BIM Manager for various Architectural firms where he worked on institutional, commercial and residential projects. In addition, William is a Revit Architecture instructor at Long Beach City College and an Autodesk Certified Professional in Revit Architecture and AutoCAD. He regularly conducts seminars on the use of Autodesk technology for Architecture and sustainable design and provides implementation, customization, training, and technical support services to AEC design professionals.

October 2011

Autodesk Insider

by: David Mills

AUGI Talks with Rob Cohee

Autodesk Manufacturing Evangelist


hat’s your role at Autodesk?

I’m an Evangelist for Autodesk Manufacturing. I work to help engineers and designers capture design digitally, and communicate in all forms so that engineers can design, visualize, and simulate their designs in the digital space. It’s much more cost effective to iterate digitally than physically.

How long have you been with Autodesk and doing this?

I’ve been with Autodesk coming up on 5 years. I’ve been in this industry for about 16 years now. Man, I’m getting old. Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be doing what you do now?

I attended a small college in Peru, Nebraska (population +/- 1,200). They have a great industrial management program. As part of that, we studied the theory and application of manufacturing processes. One of the courses was drafting (on a board!). If I’m forced to be honest, I couldn’t draft a straight line using a ruler. In the back of the room, there was an old DOS machine running AutoCAD 10. In short order, I was more effective using AutoCAD, a mouse, and a puck to draw my designs than manually drafting. The eraser population began to rest a little easier at night. Then Windows was released. We loaded AutoCAD onto a 386 processor with 4MB of RAM and finally 3D become available with AutoCAD 12. In my junior year of college, I took an internship with Union Pacific Railroad. My job was to investigate safety accidents and design either procedures or equipment that made that process safer. For some reason, Union Pacific felt that formal AutoCAD training was in October 2011

order. During the course, rather than learning the fundamentals of AutoCAD, I was playing with the first release of Mechanical Desktop. The instructor of the course, Jeanne Aarhus, was taken aback when I asked, “How do I get your job?” Within two years, I was fortunate enough to be working with Avatech and training AutoCAD 2000 to engineers, architects, and the like. This was just about the time when Inventor was released. After that, I met Lynn Allen, who was similarly taken aback when I asked her, “How do I get your job?” Ten years later, I’m the Autodesk Evangelist for Autodesk Inventor. …be careful what you wish for! What do feel is unique about the way that you connect with your readers and viewers?

I believe that telling an audience about the capabilities of our technology through the voice of our customers is more impactful than if I said it a thousand times. Our customers design and manufacture some of the most amazing products—from watches to wind turbines. This idea was the inspiration behind the web series On the Job with Rob. Fortunately, my audience has been growing! You can find me on Twitter (@RobCohee), YouTube, and/or my blog. What does a typical day look like at your desk?

The morning starts with a cup of coffee. Then I begin my warm-up. I login to Tweetdeck to see what everyone is chirping about. Then it’s off to Google News to read the day’s headlines. Then, I reluctantly open Outlook and spend the morning answering e-mails and coordinating projects with team members via conference call. The bulk of my day is spent talking with customers. I strive to get to know what they’re doing, level of satisfaction, and learning what 15

Autodesk Insider areas we can improve upon. I also look for opportunities to initiate a customer visit and the potential for sharing their organization's story of success and how our technology has helped along the way. When we find an opportunity to share a story, I’ll start talking with Autodesk Product Managers, PR, and extended members of the Autodesk team to determine the best way to share a customer’s story. At the end of the day, I strive to produce something that would be worthy of being placed on my customer's website. If you can’t tell, customer centricity is very important to me and Autodesk. This is one of those areas where Autodesk differentiates itself from competitors: at Autodesk, the customer centricity is the norm. What kind of challenges do you and those you work with face?

Change. When a customer adopts change, it’s rarely easy. Changes relating to an engineering platform are not as easy to quantify when compared to their manufacturing counterparts. For example, manufacturing can purchase a new 5-axis mill that produces parts in shorter times with higher accuracy and greater ease. Since those parts are physical, everyone sees them leave the shop on their way down the proverbial manufacturing line. Conversely, improvements inside the four walls of engineering are more intangible. Increases in drawing accuracy, fewer errors, and increased productivity sound like buzzwords but make a real impact on operating costs, etc. One of my Autodesk University classes from years gone by is called Digital Kaizen, in which, we explore lean, Six Sigma, or other manufacturing process improvement principles and adapt those to the engineering space. Almost every engineering director or vice president has requested those slides following the presentation because change is hard to justify in engineering. What sort of things do you produce and how do they reach the public?

Just about all of the work I do is available to customers and prospects via social media. Social gives me the opportunity to connect with customers at a scale that wasn’t previously imaginable. In fact, many of my followers are more up to date with my output than some of my colleagues. #CanIGetAFollow? Do you have a role at Autodesk University or other events?

Yes and yes. This will be my eighth Autodesk University. Unfortunately, I will not teach a course this year. My focus will be on the Innovation Forums, most notably, the Everything Changes forum. If you haven’t checked these out, click onto http://au.autodesk. com/?nd=au2011_innovation_forums. You’ll also see me at several at the customer appreciation events and, of course, at the Manufacturing Lounge. I’d love to be able to tell you what I’ll be demonstrating in the Lounge…but am contractually bound NOT to. You’ll just have to show up at the Lounge to find out.


What are some of your favorite blogs and web destinations?

I’m a little bit all over the place. Some of my favorite web destinations are Develop3D, Core77,, and SolidSmack. I like to read articles and opinions that give it to me straight and are capable of communicating complex thoughts and ideas in ways that everyone can understand. That’s what I like, and that’s what I try to give to my readers, viewers, and followers: complex ideas in a relatable fashion. Too often in this industry, we resort to frequent overuse of terms and definitions that are overtly complex (e.g., computational fluid dynamics or dynamic linear stress analysis). I like to break these complexities down into simple terms: What is it? What problem does it solve? What does it cost? What sort of things do you do for distraction, hobbies, travel?

Over the summer, I took advantage of my sabbatical. I took my family to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park on our way back to our hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, in our Airstream camper. In other words, we enjoy the outdoors, camping, fishing, hunting, motocross, and the like. What would we be most surprised to know about you?

I spent 9 1/2 years in the Army Reserves with the last year and a half deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2004 until April 2005. Before I left I worked for Avatech Solutions, an Autodesk Reseller, as a Technical Sales guy. On my first convoy the HMMV that I drove had canvas doors that we took off. Armor was a “nice to have.” If one could find steel, they were welcome to make a little ‘mad max’ to help them feel better. After a while things heated up. Armor was no longer a nice to have, but something we had to have. There were a lot of units digging up steel and slapping it on the sides of trucks, but there was no consistency to the design, material, and time to install. So after I returned from leave, the guys in our maintenance platoon had mocked up a prototype armor kit. Believe it or not, I took a copy of Inventor with me and went about modeling the prototype. I made a couple of changes, worked up a drawing set and assembly instructions so other units could use our kit for their trucks. We ended up showing our design to the commander of the group and not long after, were given all the Hardox steel we needed, a production facility in Doha, Kuwait, and two months (or so) to up armor what ended up being somewhere around 3,000 M915 trucks. The timeframe and actual number of trucks are estimates; I never thought to keep track. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even keep the Inventor files. I never imagined that I would need or want them. I was just doing my part to solve a field problem. For my part in this I was issued the Bronze Star. And largely because of that, I feel it to be my responsibility to share the story of what the 172nd Transportation Company did to contribute to troop safety.

October 2011


AutoCAD Civil 3D

Working with Multiple Coordinate Systems


hese days, projection-based “grid” coordinate systems like State Plane or UTM are being used a lot more frequently. And often, we need to convert data from one coordinate system to another. In particular, we often need to convert COGO points from one form to another.

Many people use programs such as Corpscon for this task, but you can also do it with AutoCAD® Civil® 3D. This article will provide a demonstration of how we can perform this conversion, as well as illustrate one way to get coordinates for multiple coordinate systems into our COGO Point Labels and Tables.

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by: Richard Sincovec

In this example, our target coordinate system is UTM Zone 13, NAD83 Meters (UTM83-13). So we select the option for “Coordinate zone transform,” then select our target system. There’s one other important detail. Note how the columns in the Point File Format in Figure 1 use the “Grid Northing” and “Grid Easting” instead of the “Northing” and “Easting.” In order to perform a coordinate conversion, we must use the “Grid Northing” and “Grid Easting” in the Point File Format. This is the most common error people make when trying to use Civil 3D for coordinate conversions.

For our demonstration, we’ll start with some control points that are in Colorado Central Zone, NAD 83 US Foot, which we’ll call our source system. We also want to see our coordinates in UTM Zone 13, NAD 83 Meters, which we’ll call our target system.

Getting Started – The Drawing Settings We’ll start with our control points in a drawing. These control points are in our source system, Colorado Central Zone, NAD 83 US Foot. So the first thing we need to do is go into our Drawing Settings, on the Units and Zone tab, and select zone CO83-CF as our coordinate zone. Figure 1 shows the coordinates we’re starting with in our example.

Figure 1: Our starting coordinates in our source coordinate system (CO83-CF).

The Point File Format In order to perform a coordinate conversion, we must first create a custom Point File Format for that conversion. Typically, we are importing or exporting points to a .txt or .csv (comma-separated value) file, which introduces a problem. Unlike a LandXML file, these older file formats do not contain coordinate system information inside of them, so we somehow need to tell Civil 3D which coordinate system is being used in the .txt or .csv file. We do this in the Point File Format.

October 2011

Figure 2: The Point File Format for our conversion.

Also, in this article, I’ll be using the PNEZD format, dumped to a .csv file. You can feel free to use any other format, such as a PENZD file, or use a tab-delimited .txt file, or any similar format. Just make sure that, whatever format you choose, you set up everything consistently.

Performing the Conversion Now that we have our Point File Format setup, it is very easy to convert our coordinates. All we have to do is use the “Export Points…” option in Civil 3D, select our new Point File Format, and make sure the option for “Do coordinate transformation if possible” is selected, as shown in Figure 3. That’s all there is to it! If we open up our new .csv file, we’ll see the converted coordinates, as shown in Figure 4. 17

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AutoCAD Civil 3D


Note that we can also use Civil 3D to convert COGO points that are not within our drawing. In order to do this, we need two Point File Formats—one for our source system and one for our target system.

User-Defined Properties Okay, we have our converted coordinates. But now we want

Figure 6: The combined Excel file.

Figure 3: The “Export Points” dialog for our export.

Figure 7: Our Point File Format for importing our combined coordinate file.

Figure 4: Our coordinates converted to our target system (UTM83-13).

to display those coordinates in our drawing, in both Point Labels and Tables. How can we do that? One way is to use User-Defined Properties on our COGO points. In order to create User-Defined Properties, we first go to Prospector -> Settings tab -> Points, and create a new User-Defined Property Classification. In this case, we’ll just call the new Classification “Coordinates.” Once we create the new Classification, we need to add some properties to it. We’ll create two new parameters, “Northing_UTM” and “Easting_UTM.” When we create the new parameters, we can keep the default values, except select “Coordinate” as the “Property field type.” If we now select any of our COGO points in the drawing, we can scroll to the bottom of its Properties and we’ll now see our new UDPs. We can also see our new UDPs in Prospector, and if we select some points and run “Edit Points…” we’ll also see our new properties in the Panorama view.

Figure 5: Creating the User-Defined Properties.


Populating the UDPs We have our new UDPs, but they’re all set to 0. So how do we get the converted coordinates into

Figure 8: The results in Panorama.

them? Obviously, we don’t want to type the coordinates one at a time into all our control points. And, unfortunately, at least in plain Civil 3D with no custom programming or third-party add-ons, there isn’t a great way to do it. But we can manage it via an Excel trick. Earlier, we created a .csv file that contains our coordinates in our target system (UTM83-13). Now, we’ll want to create another .csv file, except this time we’ll just dump the coordinates out in our source system (CO83-CF). Finally, we’ll combine the two files in Excel, ending up with a result like that seen in Figure 6. This is basically a .csv dump of our points, but with our UTM Northing and Easting placed into Columns F and G. Next, we’ll create another Point File Format to import this combined file, as seen in Figure 7. Once we create UDPs, those properties become available for use in other places within Civil 3D. So now we can select “Northing_UTM” and “Easting_UTM” as columns in our Point File Format. Finally, we’ll use this new Point File Format to import our combined file, overwriting the points currently in the drawing. We should then see our UTM coordinates in the custom fields for each COGO point. After rearranging some columns in the display, Figure 8 shows what we see in Panorama if we select all the points and “Edit Points…”. One thing to note is that these values are exactly what we imported from Excel. Our UTM coordinates are actually meters, even

October 2011


though our drawing settings and the other coordinates are in US Survey Feet. (This will be important in a moment, when we go to display the data.)

Formats Slowing you Down?

These values are not dynamic. If we were to move control points or add new ones, we’d need to repeat the export/import process to update our UDPs. But our UDPs are now populated with the correct values, so we can get on with displaying them.

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Displaying the Data Just as with the Point File Formats, once we create custom UDPs in our drawing, we can select those UDPs in our Table and Label Styles. Since we specified that they were “Coordinate” values when we created our UDPs, we get all the typical formatting controls for coordinates in the Label Composer, as seen in Figure 9.

Figure 9: The Text Component Editor.

Figure 10: A sample COGO Point Label.

AutoCAD Civil 3D

Speed and simplify your work flow with…

Something to note in Figure 9 is that the Unit is set to foot, even though the coordinate is for UTM Zone 13 Meters. This is because we imported the value in Meters directly into the UDP, but our Drawing Settings are set to Feet, so Civil 3D thinks the value is in feet. If we were to select “meter” in our Label units, then C3D would apply a feet-to-meters conversion on the value in the UDP, and we’d end up with an incorrect value in our display. Figure 10 shows some sample results in a COGO Point Label Style.

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But since these values are in UDPs, we can also create COGO Point Tables that display the UPDs as well. So by creating a new Table Style and adding columns for our UTM Northing and Easting, we can also create a Point Table that displays coordinates in multiple coordinate zones.


The Next Step This article illustrated how to use some basic functionality in AutoCAD Civil 3D to perform a specific task. However, these techniques can also be used for a wide variety of other purposes. So anytime you need to display complex data in Civil 3D tables, keep in mind how you can extend COGO points with User-Defined Properties, import data from Excel to fill those properties, and then create tables and labels to display that data in your Civil 3D drawing. It can be quite useful!


Richard Sincovec is a Registered Land Survey Intern in the State of Colorado, and a user of Civil 3D since 2006. He is also the founder of Quux Software, provider of custom and plug-in software that extends and enhances the built-in capabilities of Civil 3D. He can be reached at

To learn more, call or visit: 800-989-5028 • ®

. . . F o r t h e To t a l P r o j e c t

October 2011 19

product focus



by: Paul Munford

Playing by the iLogic Rules

What is iLogic? iLogic began as a third-party plug-in for Inventor that was purchased by Autodesk. Beginning with Autodesk Inventor® 2011, iLogic is included with the product. iLogic provides a simple and easy way to add design intent to your parts, assemblies, and drawings.

iLogic allows you to become a coding genius without having to learn much actual code at all!

What are iLogic Rules? Autodesk Inventor’s iLogic programs are known as Rules. Just like Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), iLogic Rules can be saved within a document (part, assembly, or drawing) or as a separate file. In this article we will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of both methods.

Internal and External Rules iLogic Rules saved within a document are known as Internal Rules. iLogic Rules saved directly to disk are known as External Rules.

External Rules are saved as .iLogicVb files; however, you can also save Rules as a .VB file if you want to be able to open it up in Visual Studio or as a .TXT file if you want to be able to edit your Rule in Notepad. Note: If you edit a Rule with an external editor you will need to use ‘Reload from File’ from the right-click menu in the iLogic Rule tree to bring the changes into Inventor.

Local and Global Forms With Inventor 2012, we now have the extra cool addition of Forms (i.e., dialog boxes) that we can add to our iLogic code. Like Internal Rules, Forms are saved within a document. Like External Rules, Global Forms are saved out to disk. Note: Forms have a great deal of functionality on their own. They don’t need to be hooked up to Rules to do their funky stuff.

When to use Internal Rules Internal Rules are saved in the document. This is great if you are writing a specific, bespoke Rule that is only going to apply to one part. For example, if you have a part that could be any length, but can’t exceed the maximum length in which the specified material is available, you could use an internal iLogic Rule to warn the user. Here’s a good example of that situation by Jon Landeros: http://cadso. co/pUEVkY The advantage is that the Rule is copied with the part and will always remain with the part, no matter where that part is used. The disadvantage is that if you need to edit or correct the code, you will have to track down every copy of that part to perform the edits!

When to use External Rules External Rules are saved on your local or network drive. External Rules are great if you need to code a tool or utility that is a little more complex or that you wish to apply to many documents.

Figure 1: Reload iLogic rule from file.


October 2011



One advantage in this case is that any bugs in your code can be ironed out in the source file and will automatically be applied every time they are called in a document. Here’s a good example by Curtis Waguespack, showing how to use iLogic to automatically fill out the name and date in your drawing’s title block. View it here: Tip: External rules are great for creating iLogic code ‘Modules’ that you can reuse for other tasks. The only disadvantage here is that you will need to remember to send your iLogic file with the document if you want the iLogic Rule to be used elsewhere.

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Figure 3: Start iLogic configuration.

Creating External Rules To create a new External Rule, right-click in the External tab of the Rule browser and choose Create Rule.

Figure 2: Create an External rule.

Note: Clicking Add Rule allows you to load in Rules that already exist. Notice that you can save your Rule anywhere you like. You could save locally if your iLogic Rule is a work in progress, or save on the company server if you are ready to share your Rule with others. iLogic will look for Rules in the following places: • The folder in which the current Inventor document is located. • The current Inventor Project Workspace folder. • The list of folders set in iLogic Configuration. If you plan on sharing your Rules with others in your company, it is a good idea to add your company iLogic folder to the list of folders in the iLogic configuration setup. To do this, go to: Tools > Options > iLogic Configuration Click on the drop-down arrow at the bottom of the panel to get to the button. At the top of the ‘Advanced iLogic configuration’ dialog, you can add your own folders to the list of places that Inventor will search for iLogic code. Note: There is no easy way to set the iLogic file path from within Inventor’s default or project options. Currently you need to set this manually on each machine that will use iLogic.

October 2011

Figure 4: Advanced iLogic configuration.

The ‘iLogic Addin DLL directory’ is the place to put any DLLs that you might have created to support your Logic Rules. Tip: Forget where you saved your External Rule or Global Form? Rightclick on a Rule or Form and choose ‘Open containing folder’ to track down its location.

Calling External Rules The simplest way to run an External Rule is to simply right-click on it in the rule browser and choose Run Rule. External rules can be made to run using an event trigger such as ‘On Open’ or ‘On Save’. To do this, go to: Manage > iLogic > Event triggers Select the event trigger you wish to use, and click Select Rules to select the rules you wish to run. Note: The 2010 version of iLogic only allows you to trigger Internal Rules from Events. 21

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Figure 5: Event triggers.

Figure 7: Rules triggered by Events.

Adding Bling to External Rules You can include an icon for your External Rule to display in the Rule Browser. To do this, create a 16 x 16 .bmp file with the same name as the Rule file and put it in the same folder as your Rule.

Figure 6 Rules triggered by Events

You can also run an External iLogic Rule from within another iLogic rule using: iLogicVb.RunRule “MyRule” Applying a new Rule to an existing (i.e. pre iLogic) document isn’t easy. However, Jürgen Wagner brings us this great solution. Jürgen has written a addin which runs a Rule called IPT for every IPT that is saved, a rule called IAM for every IAM that is saved, and so on. You can check it out here:

Notes on External Rules External Rules do not run automatically in response to parameter changes. If you need this functionality, you will have to code it yourself. Check out ‘ModelingEventsSink.OnParameterChange Method’ in the developer help. Unlike when you write an Internal Rule, your parameter names are not automatically available to use as variables. For example, the following Rule statement won’t work in an external Rule: MyParam = MyOtherParam * 0.5 Instead, use the long-hand method to call out your parameter: Parameter(“MyParam”) = Parameter(“MyOtherParam”) * 0.5


Best Practices for writing iLogic Rules 1. Keep it simple! Don’t try to do too much with one Rule. 2. Break up your Rules into modules that you can reuse in other projects. 3. Be consistent in your naming conventions, file locations, and methods. 4. Write lots of comments on your code. Remember that it may be you who has to work out what this program does in six months’ time. I hope that this article has helped you to understand the differences between Internal and External Rules. I encourage you to get out there and take your iLogic code to the next level! Paul Munford is a Joinery Drafter (a ‘Setter Out’) for Beck Interiors, a Museum interiors specialist contractor in the UK. Paul has been drafting with Autodesk products for seven years, before which he designed and built scenery for theatre, film and TV. In his spare time, Paul writes the CAD Setter Out Blog. You can get in touch via twitter @CadSetterOut, or Email

October 2011


Revit MEP

Get a Grip! ➲


lectrical construction documents depend upon the use of symbolic representations for devices in plan view. The symbolic representation for a receptacle, for example is larger than the actual three-dimensional modeled receptacle used for elevations and interference detection. It has to be larger to effectively convey the receptacle type and still be readable at a 1/8th scale. Because it is oversized, however, placing receptacles close together in the model causes the plan symbols to overlap. That is, unless the symbolic part of the family can be independently moved from the modeled component. Using a receptacle family as an example, this article will demonstrate how to do just that.

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by: Mitchell Voss

ily_AA” to create a nested family. Place the nested symbology above the horizontal reference plane in Family_AA, but centered on the vertical plane. Draw a horizontal reference line under the symbology, and make it a weak reference.

Begin by creating the symbolic annotation family of the plan symbol. Use the generic annotation family template provided with Revit. Name it “Family_A.” Using detail lines, draw the plan symbol at the size it would be on a plotted sheet.

Controlling Up and Down Movement Create another generic family. Use the generic annotation family template again. Name it “Family_AA.” Load “Family_A” into “Fam-

October 2011

Figure 1 23

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Revit MEP


Using an aligned dimension or the Align tool, lock the nested receptacle family to the reference line. Add a dimension from the reference line to the horizontal reference plane in “Family_AA.” Add an instance parameter to the dimension and name it “Offset From Wall.” This will add the ability to move the plan symbol away from the hosting wall or entity. Create a third family using the Generic Face Based or the Generic Model template. Wall-based or other options can be used here, so pick what works to maintain company standards. In any case, the family will be built the same, but “push/pull” options are slightly different once the family is placed into the model. Name the new family “Receptacle.” Create the following instance Parameters in the new family. Offset From Wall <Dimension> Offset From Wall2 <Dimension> Offset L R <Dimension> Create the following type Parameters in the new family. Plan Symbol <Family Type> <Generic Annotations> Plan Scale <Length> Load “Family _AA” into the “Receptacle” family and place it on the intersection of the two main reference planes. Assign the “Offset From Wall” in your nested family to the “Offset From Wall2” parameter in the host family by selecting “Family_AA” and selecting the box to the right of the “Offset From Wall” parameter in the Properties palette and then selecting the “Offset From Wall2” parameter in the dialog that pops up. This will allow the user to add a dimension to move the receptacle symbology off the wall without moving the model portion of the family.

Figure 3

default, set the “Plan Scale” parameter to 0'-0 1/8". To get the proper offset for any scale, add the following formula to the “Offset From Wall2” parameter “Offset From Wall / 1' * Plan Scale.” The “Plan Scale” parameter must be manually entered by the user.

Controlling Left and Right Movement To control the side-to-side movement of the receptacle symbol, a vertical reference plane must be dimensioned and labeled. Revit will not allow negative values in dimensions, so the base plane can not be placed in the center of the symbol. To allow the offset to go both left and right of the center reference plane, add a reference plane to the 4’ left of the center reference plane. This sets the maximum offset, so adjust if required. Set the “L R” default to 4', to align the plan symbol and the elevation symbol when families are placed. This plane should be pinned and set to “Not a Reference.” Create another reference plane and name

Figure 2

Because the receptacle family scale is based on the plan scale, and it is unknown what that scale will be until it is placed in a view, a way to push that information to the family is needed. Otherwise, an entered 6" offset may move the receptacle symbol radically more or less than 6" on the plan. The Plan Scale parameter will be used as a mechanism for the user to convey the view scale to the family. At this time, Revit families do not have a parameter for the scale of the view in which they are placed. Click on the Family Types button on the ribbon and, as a 24

October 2011


Revit MEP

it “L R.” Lock “Family_AA” to this reference plane, and make it a weak reference. Add a dimension from “L R” to the left reference plane, and set it to “Offset L R.”

Option #1: Add a label as part of the family. The problem is that as part of the family, the label cannot be moved.

Swapping out Symbology Repeat the steps above to make different types of receptacle symbology (duplex, double duplex, emergency, and so on). Load the new symbol families into the receptacle family, but do not place them.

Option #2: Tag the family. The tag can be moved, but it can only be vertical or horizontal. On an angled wall the “3” will not be perpendicular.

In the Family Types dialog, create multiple receptacle types. Associate the Receptacle Type parameter with the appropriate type loaded in the family.

Option #3: Use text. Text will rotate to any angle, but it is not part of the family and won’t update.

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This method helps when circuiting. Revit will trim the wiring to the extents of your family. If the check box to control the visibility of symbols of different sizes is used, wires may be trimmed too short or too long without this method. If using a face-based family, the “push/pull” grips to control the left and right location of the symbolic annotation now exist, but the offset from the wall distance must be manually typed in the properties dialog.

Figure 5

Push/pull grips can take Option #1 further. Just like the receptacle family example above, a label can be placed into a generic family and added to the switch family allowing the label to be moved left, right, and off the wall while staying perpendicular to an angled wall. Most of the time, Option #2 is preferable, but using the Push/pull grips provides flexibility to handle any situation. Figure 4

If using a generic family, the push/pull grips exist for control left and right as well as the offset distance from the wall. One benefit of using a generic family is that it does not require an architect model to host on.

It has been said, “Revit cannot do that!”, but with a little ingenuity, most any problem in Revit can be addressed. There are many more uses for push/pull grips, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Find out what they can do for you. Mitchell Voss is an engineering technician for Alvine Engineering, Omaha Nebraska. Mitchell has been working with Revit since Revit MEP 2009, primarily on the electrical side. He has been a technician in Omaha since graduating from Southeast Community College in Milford in 2000.

Don’t forget to model the 3D portion to the family. For brevity that has been left out here. Typically only the faceplate is required.

Move Around a Label Another use of push/pull grips is for the ability to move labels that are part of a family. In a 3-way light switch family for example, the label “3” comes in perpendicular to the wall the switch is placed on. The “3” usually needs to be moved to avoid conflicts with other symbols. Three options come to mind.

October 2011 25


by: Mark Kiker Inside Track Inventor LinkParameters Inventor LinkParameters Download - As an Inventor 2011 or 2012 user, the LinkParameters allow you to easily create dependencies between parameters of various parts and sub-assemblies in the context of the top-level assembly in which they reside. You can visually select a parameter from a source component and link its value to a specific parameter in a target component. The plug-in is based on the iLogic functionality that was introduced in AutodeskÂŽ Inventor 2011. It automatically generates the iLogic code required to link the values of the parameters for you, so you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to write any iLogic instructions.

Bluebeam Q Q is the ultimate solution for creating high-quality PDFs in a centrally managed environment by automating the production of PDFs from original source files. Bluebeam Q is installed on a server and powers PDF processing and publishing through four different options: Network PDF Printer,

Watched Folders, Script Engine, and API (Application Programming Interface).

Eagle Point Training Content Eagle Point Software Corporation announced the release of its Pinnacle Series for Structural Engineering. This revolutionary technology delivers multiple implementation, training, and support resources in a single, concise user interface. Through a combination of software and services, design professionals access onscreen workflow, cheat sheet, and video content as well as unlimited live training and technical support. This latest release of Pinnacle Series adds to the existing content for civil engineering and architecture design professionals utilizing Autodesk technology.

DotSoft Free Utilities A bunch of free utilities that do one or two things really well. There may be one small tool that saves you a ton of time. Worth checking out.

CADLink ERP CADLink CAD Interface system is a turnkey system designed to tightly connect your design information to your ERP system. It allows engineering designers to view, modify, update, and create ERP engineering information such as bills of material and item master data without leaving AutoCAD. CADLink saves significant engineering resources: typical payback period is six months or less. The real-time, two-way link between engineering design and ERP also allows engineering to benefit from item description standardization already in your ERP database. Production benefits from having drawing information identical to work order documentation, eliminating ambiguity and reducing rework and scrap.

AUGIWorld brings you recent developments in Autodesk and related software items


CADLearning Plug-in for AutoCAD 2012 The CADLearning Plug-in for AutoCAD 2012 is now available for individuals to download directly from the Autodesk Exchange Apps Tab, which offers an online marketplace where users can purchase, sell, and rate apps from within AutoCAD 2012. The Apps Tab can be found on the AutoCAD Exchange landing page that launches when AutoCAD 2012 is first opened and can also be accessed from the InfoCenter toolbar. AutoCAD 2012 users can download the new CADLearning Plug-in product and signup for a 30-day free trial or get unlimited lifetime access to the video content for an introductory price of $4.99.

October 2011

Navisworks Manage

by: Bonnie K Gorman

Power Up with Selection and Search Sets


utodesk® Navisworks® has quickly become one of the software “IT” darlings of the AEC/O community in the past couple of years. It is now being widely used to integrate different discipline models into a singular data-rich collaborated model to help design, construction, and facility management teams visualize and coordinate throughout the lifecycle of a project. So that Navisworks users can work efficiently and effectively, one of the—if not THE—most important concepts to master lies in the Search and Selection Sets and the Selector tools. Learning and integrating them into your everyday workflow will enable you to start to fully “Power-Use” Navisworks in ways that will make a project’s collaboration smoother and more intelligent for yourself and all team members involved.

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tion task, color, material, transparency, or other transform action; and Hide or Unhide objects easily.

UNDERSTANDING AND CONFIGURING THE BACKBONE OF FILE OPTIONS Navisworks' ability to import several different file formats is one of its strongest attributes. To understand Search and Selection Sets one must first have a firm grasp on how Navisworks aggregates disparate models from a variety of design and engineering software. Figure 1 shows two views of the Navisworks Options Editor. Note: You can find the Options Editor by going to your Application Button and Menu at the top left of your Navisworks interface.

SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS The Navisworks Selection and Search Sets allow you to create groups of objects with similar properties in the individual files from each discipline or in the consolidated Navisworks Manage file. They can be static or fluid, incorporating the same groups no matter how many versions of the file you upload over time. You can use these Sets to search for certain geometry collisions; to assign geometries to a specific simula-

Quick Tip: I always tell my teams and students to become familiar with their interfaces and file options. It is a really good place to form a strong foundation for learning. This goes for not only Navisworks, but any software. I believe that the very first step to mastering a program starts with going through every single button, tab, panel, menu, window, etc., and very quickly testing what it affects in a nontutorial mode. Even if the user does not fully grasp the tool or use the tool immediately, at least it becomes stored in the mind and often you will remember that SOMEWHERE there is a solution for your draft-

October 2011 27

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Navisworks Manage


ing/modeling issue at hand instead of going along blindly. Almost every week I encounter someone who says, “Man, if I only knew about that tool earlier I could have saved myself a lot of time.” If you take nothing away from this article except the habit of becoming really familiar with everything your software provides, I will feel successful as a contributor. In the Option Editor, under File Readers, you will see the different types of files you can work with in Navisworks as well as customize the way that Navisworks uses the files. The images on the left show the DGN Options (top) and the DWG/DXF Options (bottom) for Navisworks. Notice how they both have completely different ways of manipulating the native format in the Navisworks software. When you Open, Append, or Merge a file into Navisworks, the file type follows the parameters you set up in the Options Editor. Some parameters can be controlled; others can't. One of the things you cannot control within the Navisworks software are the native format’s naming conventions. If object modeling naming conventions are not set up, understood, agreed upon, and followed from the beginning of a project for every discipline and different software type, then later down the road the team will run into a lot of avoidable consternation and wasted time. We all know time equals money, and in this market climate, we could all use a little more money. A solid project plan regarding these issues enacted from the start—and I mean DD start—will ensure that you take full advantage of Navisworks’ capabilities such as the Selection and Search Sets.

AVOID THE BIM-ACHE, JOIN THE RECOVERY GROUP We have come a long way since the almost “quarantined” CAD and BIM user world. I’ve been involved in 2D and 3D CAD projects where line layer/level/cell/block names were 30 characters long as well as BIM projects where geometries were copied and renamed in really personal ways that told me nothing about what the objects were in reality. Don’t get me wrong—yes, there are CAD standards and organizations that are standardizing BIM—but let’s face it, a vast majority of users have gotten used to the idea that no one would actually open up their files and look at each line or object type to make sure they made sense with regard to field construction. The printed and approved construction documents are what really matter, right? No longer can we live in the oblivion of our personal workstations and isolated environments. Hey, I admit that I’ve created many a Revit family in the past with little care for what it was named as long as it looked right in the end. I didn’t give a thought about who might need to use the model after we got done and what element “Millwork 42” or group “Fixture Silver Bathroom A” might have meant when I first created it. I shudder to think of the generic or not so generic ways I’ve created and named geometries in the bright-screened world of deadlines and sleepless nights that so often happen in our industry. The truth is though, that to survive and thrive, all of the AEC/O disciplines have begun to blend closer together and BIM innately takes advantage of this by really being best as a sum of parts workflow anyway. The days of the master architect, engineer, builder, and craftsmen are back upon us, even if it might be most prevalently seen in a virtual space.

Figure 1: Options Editor File Readers.


October 2011

The following is an example of this one-dimensional thinking and how it can hurt your efficiency of BIM collaboration on a project. I’m working on a BIM construction project running simulations of the initial submitted design for the trade engineers to translate into well-coordinated fabrication shop drawings. I import into Navisworks an AutoCAD Mechanical HVAC file and a Revit Structural file into a Master Navisworks model (NWF). I am creating a Clash Detective Clash Batch on HVAC and Structural. Our HVAC trade engineer has named some of their duct “Jimmy’s Awesome Stuff” and the structural trade has named their columns by inner-office designated numbers. When creating a report or in a work session with the team, the only information we get at first glance is that “Jimmy’s Awesome Stuff” is clashing with “34.” These names tell us nothing about what the object really is and what we might need to look up to make sure the adjustments made to the design in the field are the most efficient. If “Jimmy’s Awesome Stuff” was named “1.5 D Round Elbow” and “34” was named “W10x12” we could quickly decide whether we need to consult specs/manufacturer data, calculate various prices on a product change, the time it might take to install differently because of that change, or just make decisions on what might be best for the project in general. Not only could we understand the issue at hand more quickly, but also everyone on the team would be more educated to boot.

THE GOLDEN TOOLS The Navisworks Help tool states that Selection Sets are static groups of items and are useful for saving a group of objects on which you want to regularly perform some action, such as hiding them, changing transparency and so on. They simply store a group of items for later retrieval. There is no intelligence be-

hind this set. If the model changes at all, the same items are selected (assuming they are still available in the model) when recalling the selection set. The Navisworks Help tool states that Search sets are dynamic groups of items and work in a similar way to selection sets, except that they save search criteria instead of the results of a selection, so that you can rerun the search at a later date as and when the model changes. Search sets are much more powerful and can save you time, especially if your CAD files continue to be updated and revised. It is also possible to export search sets and share them with other users.

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Navisworks Manage

You can find the Selection and Search Sets under the Home Tab in the Select & Search Panel. There are several ways to quickly set up your Sets. You can create a Selection Set by choosing any element in your consolidated model via the Selection Tree or in your Navisworks Scene View. After you select your object you can then decide whether you want to Select Same, Multiple Instances, Same Name, Same Type, or Select Same Geometry. Select one of these options and all of the elements with those parameters will also be highlighted. Then you

Figure 3: Find Item options.

can Save Selection and create a static Selection Set that can be used repeatedly throughout your project’s lifecycle. Another powerful way to create Sets is by using the Find Items tool. When you use the Find Items tool, you have created a Search Set. There are many options in the Find Items tool that enable you to sort through your consolidated model and find the specific elements that you may want to continually group in your model, even when uploading newer versions of your files.

Figure 2: Select & Search Panel is in the Home tab.

Once you create and save a Set, the Sets tab appears in your entire Selection Tree window. You can use these to perform many different actions within Navisworks. An example of usage would be if you want to make all the walls 50 percent transparent while you are coordinating the MEP/FP. Many times while I’m coordinating the MEP/FP on a project, the walls, ceilings, and floors get in the way of viewing the virtual construction conditions. You don’t want to hide them all or arbitrarily hide the ones that get in the way because many times the team needs them for context. Also, if you Hide an item it will not show up in clash detections, which is a danger when coordinating the true condi-

October 2011 29

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Navisworks Manage

Figure 4: Before any Sets are created.

Figure 6: Importing Sets

Along with this article, I will be posting a link here ( to download premade sets for Revit® Architecture, Revit® Structure, Revit® MEP and the AutoCAD® Architecture and AutoCAD® MEP programs. These sets will more than get you started using and learning more about sets in your projects. I advocate for Navisworks users to become increasingly familiar with the ways Sets can help make projects and coordination faster and more efficient. If you have any questions or comments on this article, please feel free to email me at Bonnie K Gorman is the Executive Vice President of Business and Product Development at Advanced AEC Solutions. She has worked on national and international Architecture, Engineering and Construction BIM projects. She can be reached at

Figure 5: After Sets are created.

tions of a project. Using a Search or Selection Set to transform their transparency or to Hide and then Unhide quickly is the best workflow for this troublesome condition. Navisworks also has the ability to export the sets you create as an xml document, which can be imported into many projects. You can use them over and over again, as well as create Navisworks standards. 30

October 2011


Revit Structure

Roof Design Simplified with BuildEdge

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by: Aaron Dietzen

Designing roofs can be a complicated process. A new product from BuildEdge allows you to create difficult roofs with a single mouse click.

Figure 1: Multiple plate height roof in a single mouse click.


esigning a roof in Autodesk® Revit® Structure can feel like a necessary evil. It is one of those things that you often have to do, but do not enjoy doing. Roofs need to be modeled correctly to assure correct load generation and transfer through a structure. A new add-in for Revit seeks to simplify this process.

BuildEdge Roof for Revit BuildEdge Roof makes designing complex roofs easier by reducing the number of steps involved in designing a roof, providing a

October 2011

preview of the roof before it is complete, and providing additional parameters and information. These improvements can dramatically increase productivity. For example, it can take fewer than 10 seconds to design a roof with multiple steps in plate height in BuildEdge Roof.

Single-click Roof BuildEdge Roof allows you to define the boundary of a roof. Then the add-in calculates where the changes in elevation are, based on 31

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Revit Platform


wall locations, and create a single roof that honors the steps in the walls.

along with the input tools provided, allow you to create a highly accurate roof design.

Roof Visualization With BuildEdge Roof, you can see what the geometry of the roof will look like when complete, before completing input. As soon as you close the polygon (roof outline), a three-dimensional representation of the roof is displayed, allowing you to see what will happen when you click Finish.

The Slope value is available in the options bar of BuildEdge Roof. This makes inputting roof systems with multiple slope values quicker and easier. In BuildEdge Roof, instead of showing the difference in height from the top of the wall and the bottom of the roof, Align Eaves shows the absolute height of the eave across the entire roof. In addition to fine-tuned controls such as slope and rafter cut, BuildEdge Roof includes the following parameters: • Rafter or truss chord depth • Sheathing depth • Truss heel height • Truss cantilever length • To make editing easier, dimensioning is simplified. The add-in deals only with roof input, so only dimensions relative to roof input are displayed.

Figure 2: Roof pre-visualization.

This solution allows you to see a roof and make changes where necessary before you return to Revit. From here, you get the chance to change slopes, heel heights, overhangs, or cantilevers, and see the roof updated in real time.

Additional Parameters Providing expanded roof parameters, BuildEdge Roof embraces the notion that most design work is iterative, regardless of initial expectations. It includes a number of additional parameters that increase the precision of your standard Revit roof design. These parameters,

Reduce Mental Gymnastics Designing a complex roof without the Roof add-in requires you to know the exact roof design you want and the exact steps you need to take before you begin. When you need to create a complex roof, such as one with a series of sloped surfaces that need to plane together from multiple plate heights, designing the whole roof and planning each step to successfully add it to your building plan can be very time consuming.

Figure 4: Single click to place a slope change.

Figure 3: BuildEdge Roof parameters.


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Revit Structure

Using BuildEdge Roof to define this geometry will still cause the roof to break in Revit, but it will save you the work of having to manually define and locate the roof.

Limitations Certain commands are not available from BuildEdge Roof, such as slope arrow, opening or dormer input, and ceiling creation. These commands must be performed in Revit. BuildEdge is working with Autodesk to lobby for the control needed in the API to accomplish all that is desired with roofs.

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However, adding these features to a roof designed in BuildEdge Roof will not affect the way the roof design performs in the addin or in Revit. Figure 5: Single click to define a Dutch hip.

Use Case: Slope Breaks and Dutch Hips Defining a slope break in BuildEdge Roof is as simple as a mouse click. Using the Multi-Slope command, you can define the slope break location and the slope values, and then click on a boundary line.

Want to try BuildEdge Roof? Visit to learn more and to view videos of BuildEdge in action. Aaron Dietzen has been in the architectural/engineering software development industry for nearly 20 years. Most recently, Aaron has applied substantial effort to characterizing the Revit user base, and designing product offerings that will add significant benefits. This November, Aaron will launch the BuildEdge line of CAD Add-Ins.

A Dutch hip roof is equally easy to define. Simply set the slope of the roof and the vertical or horizontal distance to the slope break, and then click on the line where you want the break.

Figure 6: Scan to see BuildEdge Roof.

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Revit Architecture


By: Ibrahim Hakki

Codeless Revit Customization S ➲ o I received a call inquiring if I’d write an article about customizing Autodesk® Revit®. My initial response was, “Golly Gee. I don’t know anything about writing code. Why would I want to? I’m an architect.”

Ironically, I had spent much of my young professional career learning how to use LISP so that I could make AutoCAD® do the things I wanted it to. I switched to Revit and most of those difficult tasks were no longer a part of my life. Productivity went up and frustration slid right down the back of the learning curve! I don’t use Revit right out of the box. There are ways to make the production of drawings faster, easier and less expensive! If you’re a design professional, follow along with this article and we’ll explore how to “customize” Revit without knowing code. With what method shall we “Customize?” We shall use our template. If you’re new to Revit, keep right on reading. If you’re more of a Jedi Revit Master, skip ahead.

Getting down to basics; Lines, Fonts, Dimensions, Title Blocks, Tags “I opened the box and started working. But the drawings look so very different!” Well, of course they do. If you’ve not had a chance to work in another office, then you may think there is only one way to communicate a design with drawings. Customizing your template should start with the items that take the least amount of effort to understand. Those would be the line weights, fonts and dimensions. Fonts and dimensions can be modified by selecting a font (or di. Like most things in Revit, mension). In Properties, select you then duplicate it and make it yours (see Figure 1). In our office, we decided to make life simple by using only one font. This font is different from our previous “archaicCAD” fonts. We selected Arial because it takes up the least amount of real estate on the sheets and everyone who uses Windows has it. An unintended consequence is that we can very quickly tell which program the drawings were made in because the fonts don’t match our previous 2D life. Dimensions get modified in a very similar fashion. 34

Figure 1: Property options for dimensions.

Lines are a different beast. All the line customization tools are found in the Manage tab, under the button Additional Settings. Start with line weights (see Figure 2). We used our old plotter configuration file. You cannot import it, but you can open the file and transpose the numbers from one program to the other. The provided line patterns will probably prove to be enough, but you can always add to the list. The culmination of weights and patterns come together in Line Styles. Title blocks are the next thing to work on. Your title block is a family. Families are made and edited outside of your template, then imported into it. I would recommend starting with one that is already populated with stuff. Stuff is good. Stuff would be things such as parameters and schedules. For maximum efOctober 2011

Revit Architecture

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Figure 3: Select Open/New Project from the big purple R to choose to a specific template file.

Figure 2: Line tools are located under additional settings.

Create a legend for your general notes so that you can place them on multiple sheets (not a good idea); 3) Create a drafting view for your general notes and place them on one sheet (the best idea).

ficiency, bring the line styles and fonts that you just established into your title block family. You can do this by making samples of each directly on a sheet. With both the template and the family open, you can copy and paste between the template (sheet view) and the title block family.

In case you missed the hints, use option 3 because it allows you to easily move the notes to the final location and prevents you from accidently placing them on multiple sheets, a major (and common) infraction of the proper way to prepare drawings. I only mentioned the first two options so you don’t fall into these traps.

The default tags in Revit may or may not match your office standard. The choice is yours (or perhaps it belongs to your superior). Decide if you’re going to use the defaults or if you’re going to customize the tags.

I’m confident that your firm also has a certain look for schedules. It may take a lot of effort, but you can either achieve the same look or create a new (and improved) look that communicates the same information. This is the best example for why we should make templates. Go ahead and track the amount of time that it takes to customize your door schedule, room schedule, window schedule, ceiling schedule, wall schedule and all of the miscellaneous schedules your firm uses. You could end up with a few hours or a few days of work. By placing these schedules in the template, you’ve deducted that time from the production time for each project! According to Hakki’s Theory of Revitivity, “The shorter the amount of time spent with the mundane will directly impact the financial standing of your project and the size of your bonus.”

Customizing the tags also requires editing families. The best advice I can give is to make small changes and load the family into your template often. This lets you do quick evaluations and minimizes the potential for big screw-ups. For clues on the best way to edit families, use the Revit Families Guide.

Where is the template? Set the default template in Options (Big purple R, Options in the lower right corner). Under the Files tab, you can select the template you want to use every time. If you’re setting up a customized template for your office, make sure this is set on every Revit machine in your office. If you have multiple templates (perhaps one for each project type), you can manually select the template you want to use (see Figure 3).

Schedules “It’s time to schedule those general notes; or is it time to generally note the schedules? Let’s do both!” If your firm is like mine, you have a plethora of general notes that you’ve grown over the years. Heck, you may even have conflicting notes, just like I do. Well, let me tell you (as well as myself), “It’s time to sort this out.” Gather your general notes and place them in your template. Where do you put them? You have three choices: 1) Type the notes directly onto the sheets (bad idea); 2) October 2011

Adding Content “God is in the details!” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe How many ways are there to build a stud wall? Not many. Chances are that you or your company has a standard set of preferred practices or materials. You may already have a library of details that go far and beyond stud walls. If you use them, then you should continue to use them! The difference is that they’re now going to be included in your template and you’ll no longer need to go looking for them. Import your CAD details as dictated below. Prepare your AutoCAD detail for importing. The line work will come in just fine. Hatching will not. If it’s a simple hatch that you’ll never need to use again, you can choose to explode it. If it’s a hatch you that you need to be modifiable (perhaps the detail scale will be changed), consider creating a region in Revit after 35

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Revit Architecture


you’ve imported it. Annotation should be set to a windows font and should have a width factor of 1. You’re going to lose leaders and dimensions. In Revit, create a drafting view with the correct scale and a good organizing name. Import the CAD file and explode it. Select your lines and change them to Revit line styles. (Hint: if you insert with color, you can filter your selection by color. This allows you to change red lines to wide lines or yellow lines to thin lines.) Select your text and change it to a Revit style. Re-establish your dimensions, annotations, and regions. This could be time consuming, but it will be rewarding. Ask your co-workers to join in the fun and good times. Not only will it make the task go much easier, it will expand your company’s collective Revit experience. Be selective about the details you choose to convert. If you have a detail that has caused issues during construction, maybe it gets left behind. Another method to get details into Revit is to draw them. After all, Revit 2D is very quick and intuitive. By drawing the details from scratch, you can take advantage of the detail families that come with Revit. If you haven’t used them, give it a shot. You’ll thank me!

Establish Phases “I saw a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk was transferred into a different phase of reality!” Interesting, but that has nothing to do with construction phases. In our current economic reality, there are a lot of building owners who would rather spend construction money to fix up things and reuse them, rather than to build from scratch. Well, Captain Kirk, set your heading to that big bright star called Revit. We have a tool for you to use!

Figure 4: Everything modeled so far is in a set of views set to Existing, Show Previous + New.

Items may need to be selected by object type, rather than as a complete group. Spock now makes another plan view of the same level. This will be the new construction phase. He quickly models the new construction (see Figure 6). Being the clever Reviteer he is, Spock has a complete graphical record of the space from existing to new. He’ll go back to that record as he does quality control through the rest of the project. As the owner’s finances change, Spock will be able to add

This is one area that Revit does seriously well. There is no 2D ArcaicCAD program that can compare. When you model something in the existing phase, it is existing. When you model something in the new phase, it is new. If an existing something needs to be demolished so that a new something can be built, then it gets demolished in the new phase. If you’re not familiar with Revit Phases, then this will sound like Klingon. We need a Rosetta Stone. Let’s use samples and examples. Here’s the situation. Our client has an existing office building and wants to reuse it. The bathrooms and conference room work well, so we’re not going to change them. Our Reviteer (let’s call him Spock) spends some time measuring and modeling. Perhaps his budget can afford a laser scan (see Figure 4). Spock now makes a new plan view of the same level. (Perhaps he duplicated the existing view to save a little bit of time.) This view will become the demolition plan (Figure 5). The first thing he does is change the property of the view. All of the items modeled in the existing phase now appear grey. Spock selects items that will be demolished to make way for new construction. He changes their property so they are demolished in the new phase.


Figure 5: Spock’s demolition plan after selecting items to be demolished.

October 2011

Revit Architecture

or remove items from the scope by modifying when they get built/demolished. And you, my Revit customizing friend, are the true genius behind

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Figure 7: A construction plan.

Figure 6: All of the objects set to be demolished in this phase are no longer visible. The existing items to remain are visible and grey. New items are shown solid.

Spock’s success. You were the one who set up the template with the phases and views that Spock used for this project.

Setting The Views As you know, Revit is a 3D program. We spend our hours doing fun stuff, like building a model. When it comes time to show your work, you should not show the 3D model, no matter how cool it is. (Believe me, your owner doesn’t want to spend time watching you pan and zoom around the model. I know this from experience.) It is much better to show fixed views that represent the model. After all, when you’re ready to submit your design for all of those prestigious awards, you don’t submit the building, you submit photos of the building. So let’s consider the views to be snapshots. With Revit, we can have multiple views of the same image used for multiple purposes. For example, we have a plan view of LEVEL 1. This plan view can be used to generate an egress plan, construction plan, furniture plan, flooring plan, and presentation plan (see Figures 7, 8, and 9). In addition, each plan can represent multiple phases. Using Revit terminology, we are looking at views. A view is any plan, section, elevation, or detail that represents a portion of the model. What type of building does your company design most often? Determine what types of views you’re going to need for most projects. Go ahead and make the views you need. Now, you have to ask yourself, “What do I want this plan to look like?” Edit the view Detail Level, Visibility Graphics (model and

October 2011

Figure 8: A furniture plan.

annotation categories) and Graphic Display Options to show all you need to see. Establishing these views in your template will not only eliminate the time needed while you’re producing the drawings, it will give a more uniform look to your drawings, creating a signature. More importantly, as you modify the model in one view, each of the other views is REVised InsTantly. (What should we call this software?) 37

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Revit Architecture


Figure 10: Some pre-established sheets with views.

Figure 9: A Presentation Plan.

View Templates “Sometimes I want pretty, Sometimes I don’t.” We’ve spent a lot of time setting up views. What happens if something happens? We would need to go back and recreate those view settings. It was not terribly fun the first time and you’re not looking forward to doing this again. The good news is, you’re smart. After you set the view, you created a view template (Figure 10). Now, you can simply reapply the view template and all is saved. You’re back to having fun.

What happens when the building doesn’t match your template? Perhaps you’re working on a five-level building when your template is based on two levels. Did I mention that you’re smart? It dawns on you that you can take this process to a whole new level by applying the view template to your brand new levels! But wait, there’s more. It turns out that you’re not just smart, you’re seriously intellectually gifted! You have view templates that are set up for design and construction drawings. Your design templates are color with shadows turned on and solid filled walls. Your Construction Document template is fine and clean and has no shadows. The detail level is set to fine.

Lay out your drawings! “A thumbnail sketch, a jeweler’s stone A mean idea to call my own” REM said it well, way back in 1986. Stipe was foretelling how we’d use Revit to lay out our sheets in a way that could not be perceived in ArcaicCAD. You can add your company’s typical sheets into your template. It’s a quick way to see how your set will lay out, in thumbnail format. In the end, most of us will place our views on a title block before we issue it. This keeps the lawyers happy because we can include things like ownership, issue date, authorized use, and so on. You’re setting up the views (as noted above) so why not place them on the sheets? (See Figure 11 for a super secret tip.) While you’re at it, add those schedules, general notes, and generic details. Having your sheets set up in your template will allow you to go from nothing to something in a lickety-split second. It also establishes a certain, coherent order to your drawings that will propagate itself across all of the projects in your company. If you’ve ever worked in a larger company, you’ll find that every design team has a different way of drawing. After all, architects are always seeking a better way of doing things. It’s in our nature. Revit will unify your company’s output.


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Revit Architecture

Interlude: this has nothing to do with setting up templates, but does fit into this part of the project process. All of those views that you’ve made will be customized for whatever use they’re designed. You’ll need to add notes for sure. Perhaps you’ll need certain tags or dimensions. Maybe you need some enhancement with 2D linework. If your office is just starting to get into Revit, there will be those folks who do not want to get on board. Don’t blame them, because it’s human nature to be afraid of new things. It’s best to ease them into the process. Dimensions, tags, annotations, and line work need to be done and do not require 3D modeling experience. Ask them for help and give them the one hour of 2D training they need to complete these tasks. Most likely, your coworkers will find that working in Revit 2D is better and more intuitive than working in archaicCAD, whichever program it may be.

Figure 11: Here’s a tip that is not well known. If you add reference lines to your view, you can snap to them from the sheet view. This allows you to line up your drawings from sheet to sheet. Rumor has it that you can do the same thing with scope boxes.

Once your sheets are set up in the template, go back to doing the fun part. As you make your model, your drawings are “self-populating.” As you rough out the walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs, you’ll see your sheets filling up. Add rooms, doors, and windows and your design will become apparent.

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I didn’t know that I didn’t know. What else don’t I know?

There are those who are willing to share knowledge. Do a quick search on the AUGI forum for templates. You can download a template to use for reference. Chances are that you will not be able to use any of these templates directly, unless you happen to work for the same company, but it is nice to see what others have done. Ibrahim Hakki is an architect at ka in Cleveland, Ohio. He uses Revit, Studies Tae Kwon Do and Kumdo, likes to Geocache, and does a few other fun things.

Of course, my lawyer reminds me to disclose the fact that this self-populated drawing is not ready for issuance until you review the set. But you can print a set of drawings that is ready for markup. Let’s call this 20 to 30 percent complete. If your contract is coordinated with your template, it’s time to bill the client.

IN REMEMBRANCE Scott R. Womack, AIA, 52, passed away September 10, 2011 following a courageous battle with cancer. Scott was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., and reared in Northeast Ohio. He was a graduate of Kent State University with degrees in architecture and fine arts. He has called the Pittsburgh area home for the past 25 years. Scott was a registered architect for more than 25 years, most recently with WTW Architects of Pittsburgh. He was active in the design community as a contributor to Build Pittsburgh, an instructor for Autodesk University and the author of several articles on computeraided design. He was the founder of the Steel City Revit Users group and was selected by Autodesk as a “Gunslinger” for the

October 2011

evaluation of design software. As an AUGI member Scott was active in the forums, helping new users, and often wrote for AUGI publications. Scott also served for several years on the Jackson Township Planning Commission, the last few years as the commission’s chair. Although Scott’s life was short, he lived it to its fullest. Scott was an experienced traveler, and he and his wife enjoyed numerous adventures throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Australia. Scott also was an avid photographer, woodcrafter and model railroader. He was a connoisseur of wines and a collector of animation art. He also was a supporter of local theater and a dedicated Pirates fan. Scott is survived by his wife of 28 years, Barbara; his parents, John and Donna Womack of Pickerington, Ohio; his brother, Eric Womack (Deena), also of Pickerington; a brother-in-law, Henry Klein (Nancy) of Columbus, Neb.; and several nieces and nephews. 39




by: James L. Salmon


“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes”


ith this phrase, the witch tending the cauldron in Act 4, Scene 1 of Macbeth foretells the entrance of the title character. As a collaborative consultant, I often feel that pricking of my thumbs when helping form, train, and deploy integrated teams to plan, design, construct, operate, and maintain facilities. The timely and successful creation of an integrated team to complete construction projects requires resolution of a series of wicked problems.


What are Wicked Problems? “Wicked problem” is a term of art in the collaborative consulting arena coined by Horst Rittel1 that accurately describes a typical commercial construction project. Six key characteristics of a wicked problem are listed below. 1. Evolving definitions. The definition of a wicked problem evolves, triggering solutions that, in turn, change the definition of the problem. Linear thinking fails to solve wicked problems because the problem evolves as solutions emerge. Wicked construction project problems manifest themselves June 2011


in the dichotomy of design where the problem of what is needed (i.e., what the owner wants) clashes with the solution (i.e., what can be built given the available resources). 2. Continuous solution cycle. Because the definition of the problem continues to evolve, solutions emerge continuously. Wicked problem solving efforts end only when problem solvers run out of time, energy, money, or some other limiting resource. 3. Perfect solutions prove elusive. Evolving solutions, tied to the subjective reality as perceived by stakeholders with varying interests, ensure that no objective or “perfect” solution emerges. At best, solutions to wicked problems fall on a scale of best to worst or acceptable to unacceptable. Objective criteria rarely carry the day. 4. "One off" problems. No two projects are alike and no two wicked problems are the same. Customized solutions by key stakeholders characterize wicked problems and their real world manifestations on construction projects.


tional project-delivery methods and traditional problem-solving techniques. Comprehensive and effective solutions to the wicked problems that manifest themselves in the lifecycle of a construction project can only be tackled with wicked tools.


What are Wicked Tools? Wicked tools enable creation of a shared understanding and instill a shared sense of commitment to resolving issues—i.e., solving wicked problems—throughout the lifecycle of a project. BIM and other virtual design and construction software programs, integrated legal agreements, integrated project delivery, lean supply chain plans, lean logistics, the Last Planner System, BIM implementation plans, BIM addenda, BIM protocols, BIM guidelines, and a number of other best-in-class wicked tools empower integrated teams to solve wicked problems. These qualify as wicked tools because they encourage integrated teams to solve wicked problems collaboratively, enabling team members to quickly leverage disparate knowledge bases on a cross-disciplinary basis. More importantly, wicked tools incentivize the wicked to play nice in the collaborative sandbox.

5. One-shot solutions. Wicked problems feature one-shot solutions. Attempts to solve the problem impact the problem and everything the problem touches. Few opportunities exist to game plan real-world solutions, though virtual construction and design processes—i.e., Building Information Modeling (BIM)—tend to mitigate the impact of this factor on BIMenabled projects. 6. Creativity and judgment drive solutions. Wicked problems may never be solved, may be subject to numerous alternative solutions and may be susceptible to a variety of solutions never considered. Pursuit and implementation of solutions depends on the creativity and judgment of the stakeholders. The list gives the reader a sense of what constitutes a wicked problem, but only hints at the myriad levels of “wickedness” encountered by integrated team members tasked with solving them. Social complexity and fragmentation of the interests of key stakeholders contribute to the “wickedness” of the problems we face in the BUILT environment when planning, designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining a facility and or supporting infrastructure.

More importantly, wicked tools incentivize the wicked to play nice in the collaborative sandbox

Wicked problems occur and are solved in a social context where the diversity of interests held by key stakeholders—and the fragmentation of interests, business processes, and services—magnify the wickedness of the problems. Virtually all construction projects involve wicked problems in every phase—from planning and site selection through design, construction, operations, and maintenance. Disparate interests, business processes and services pursued and delivered by a complex array of entities and individuals adds multiple layers of social complexity to the mix, overwhelming and derailing tradiJune 2011 41




and the wide array of addenda, protocols, and other supporting documents associated with them, become wicked solutions to wicked problems.

What are Wicked Solutions? Wicked solutions provide stakeholders involved in solving wicked problems with a platform from which wicked tools can be deployed. Construction projects require such platforms to support a legal framework, lean business processes, innovative technologies, and a shared understanding of the nature and scope of the problem being addressed. The foregoing must be marshaled by an integrated team with a shared commitment to solving the wicked problems manifesting themselves on the project. A common feature of wicked solutions is the use of powerful collaborative mechanisms designed to align the interests of key stakeholders involved in the effort to solve wicked problems.2 Effective wicked solutions incorporate toolboxes full of wicked tools that can be deployed against wicked problems. Wicked solutions empower stakeholders to master voluminous compilations of facts, data, studies, and reports about a wicked problem, to access the right data at the right moment in time and to build a shared commitment to a durable solution. Understanding a wicked problem is about collectively making sense of the situation and coming to a shared understanding about who wants what and why, and what resources can be used to achieve the preferred solution.

Deploying Wicked Solutions Open and honest communication among diverse stakeholders on a cross-disciplinary basis throughout every phase of the project is facilitated by, and facilitates, the use of wicked solutions. Instead of a negative reinforcement loop, wicked solutions produce positive reinforcement loops leading to higher levels of buy-in by key stakeholders and better solutions. Collaboratively crafting, negotiating, and implementing integrated agreements provides integrated teams with the legal structure necessary to tackle wicked problems in every phase of a facility’s lifecycle. Built from wicked tools such as BIM and virtual design tools on the one hand, and lean business processes on the other, integrated agreements 42

A Few Wicked Thoughts Institutional stakeholders with a vested interest in managing wickedness lack substantial incentives to deploy wicked tools, wicked solutions, or to resolve wicked problems. Entire business models revolve around the management, but not the resolution, of wicked problems. Large portions of the legal profession, finance and accounting industry, insurance industry, and others, receive their daily bread from monies paid by entities tiptoeing through minefields filled with wicked problems. The wasted time, energy, and resources dedicated to the management of wicked problems appears immense. Unfortunately, the waste visible at the surface is likely only the tip of the iceberg. Conclusion The BUILT – BIM to FM section of AUGIWorld serves, in a sense, as a platform for a conversation regarding a particularly virulent class of wicked problems. Accurately capturing, transferring, and leveraging data to make better decisions, and doing so throughout the lifecycle of a facility, constitutes a herculean task best defined as a wicked problem. The myriad stakeholders processing an imposing array of convergent, and divergent, interests adds a toxic brew of fragmented social complexity to the task that renders it truly daunting. Compartmentalized linear solutions prove woefully inadequate for problems at this level of wickedness. Wicked problems require wicked tools and wicked solutions. James L. Salmon is President of Collaborative Construction Resources, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

1 Rittel, Horst, and Melvin Webber; “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” pp. 155– 169, Policy Sciences, Vol. 4, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Inc., Amsterdam, 1973. [Reprinted in N. Cross (ed.), Developments in Design Methodology, J. Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 1984, pp. 135–144.] 2 Specific examples of wicked solutions include Collaborative Construction’s IPD in 3DTM, the BUILT System, the Onuma Planning System and Phi Cubed’s CATIA based Project Lifecycle Management program.

June 2011


3ds Max

Careful Customization


ustomizing software can be dicey depending on the package in question, who you talk to, and the way the tools are used. The goal of customization is always a combination of extending functionality and streamlining workflow. With CAD or Autodesk® Revit®, every office creates its own customized templates, pen assignments, and so on. Generally these are implemented by a CAD leader or manager, and are adopted by all users. With so many standards in the CAD world most of these customizations are generally heading in the same direction, but are tweaked for a particular work environment.

product focus

By: Tom Cipolla

verse syntax, or even a dialect known only to one user. Because of this flexibility it is often a challenge to work on a scene that was created by someone else. Too many scenes are populated by generically named objects such as “Box 2053” or “Loft 47.” One nice thing about Business Information Modeling (BIM) data

A Different Drum Autodesk® 3ds Max® is a different beast, though. It is an artistic tool, and the typical power user is a digital artist. As opposed to Revit, where either you play by the rules or you don’t play at all, 3ds Max allows for a seemingly endless variety of approaches and working methods. As artists, we are inclined to experiment and to find our own ways of working—we develop habits. It is common to find a Max user who uses his or her own naming conventions, or none at all. Max allows you to use layers, selection sets, scene states, groups, object type filters, and more. These tools are designed to help keep track of and manipulate the scene. I tend to think of workflow management in terms of language. In this model, a statement—or an image—can use widely di-

Figure 1: Select for scene model from Revit.

October 2011 43

product focus

2012 3ds Max (through .fbx) is that your objects come into Max already named, so you have a starting point when it comes to organizing your 3ds Max scene. Not so with Google SketchUp, where objects are all numbered meshes. But the intricacies of scene management are for another article.

Figure 2: Select for scene model Max geometry.

standard tool set. These can generate geometry, cameras, lighting rigs, entourage, and more. At the top of the plug-in list is, of course, the rendering engine. The importance of the renderer cannot be overstated. It is the tool that will actually create the pixels that make up your images, and is the culmination of all the work so far. The rendering engine determines the material type, light type, and often the camera type. As you’d expect, most are not compatible with each other. If you’ve ever had to open a file to find the “Missing Renderer” error, you know you’ve got some work ahead. Geometry must be merged into a new Max file, materials stripped, lights changed, and cameras replaced. There are some excellent conversion scripts available to help automate the translation process, but it can be a chore, and it wastes time. Mental ray began as a plug-in many versions ago, but for quite some time, it has been part of 3ds Max. With many excellent rendering engines on the market, inevitably the choice, at least in archviz, seems to come down to mental ray versus Vray. It’s almost like the PC/Mac debate. My advice: learn ‘em both. Architects tend to rely on mental ray because of its close ties to Revit, and the inescapable “it’s free” argument. Many archviz studios use various renderers. Their chief production pipeline is that of an animation studio where imagery and film are the end product. For architects, visualization plays a secondary role. Max does not generate construction documents, etc. Being skilled with more than one rendering tool makes you more flexible and valuable as a Max user. Deciding when to customize comes down to this: Are you part of a team with a specific workflow, are you an independent working on your own, or are you managing a studio? If you have the luxury—or chore—of doing projects from start to finish I say customize away. It is important to customize in a non-destructive way, though, meaning that you should avoid changing the tool set and, instead, only add to it. Keyboard shortcuts are an excellent example. I started using Autodesk® VIZ 2.5, and learned some of the shortcuts but also added many of my own. I also used other programs and developed my own set of shortcuts that I could use in several packages. At the time this increased my efficiently.

Figure 3: Select for scene model from SketchUp.

Understand the options Think of customizations falling into two categories: User Experience and Functionality. User experience refers to the way tools are implemented, including visual interface, keyboard shortcuts, context menus, colors schemes, layout, and so on. The actual functions of Max can be extended under the hood with custom scripts and third-party plug-ins. Some additions work to automate or augment Max’s existing functions, including uvw mapping, scene asset management, and animation controllers. Other scripts and plug-ins add new capabilities beyond the 44

Several years ago I did some work at a firm where I was not the only Max user. Max seats were limited to a few graphics stations in the office, so we shared them. I soon realized that my shortcuts were very different from the factory defaults. An interim solution was to keep a copy of my preferences file on a flash drive, so I could quickly set up the machine I was using. Then, when finished, I would restore the original preferences file. This was too much work and it wasted time; especially important with projects on tight deadlines. Do an online search for Max’s default shortcuts and just learn them. You don’t need them all, just the ones you use most frequently in your general working. However, If you do learn them all, you could work in “expert mode” (contol+x), where only the view port shows. It’s kind of Zen, actually. October 2011


3ds Max

tools that aid the user in working on the scene. A good example is ZooKeeper.

product focus

Figure 4: 3ds Max in expert mode.

Compatability Compatibility becomes even more crucial when working across a network and setting up a render farm. Assets now must be located centrally on a server, where all machines can use them. Now is the time to set static ip addresses, permissions, and to re-path assets in your Max files to absolute addresses on the server. I once set up a render farm consisting of just two workstations. I couldn’t resist calling them Fred and Ethel. Now when I rendered I got 12 buckets on my screen churning out each frame instead

Figure 6: ZooKeeper scene manager plug-in.

Other plug-ins and scripts that affect the way objects in a scene appear or are rendered need to function on all machines that render the job, and must be installed on each render node. A single missing plug-in, like a dropped bitmap, can affect all frames. You could render a sequence out over a weekend only to find on Monday morning that the animation can’t be used because the tree generating plug-in skipped blocks throughout the entire shot. In this environment there are certain functions of Max that resemble a more stringent workflow like that of Revit with its centralized file paradigm. For example, with mental ray you’ll use Backburner, the render queue management component in Max. Vray requires you to run Backburner at least once to set up its distributed rendering capabilities.

The Bottom Line In the end, it is best to exploit all the tools inherent in 3ds Max before adding levels of complexity to a workflow that will affect others or even make your own job more complicated than it has to be down the road. Tom Cipolla is a digital artist specializing in architectural visualization. Born in New York, he trained as a sculptor and transitioned to digital work in 2000. Tom has taught foundry practice, sculpture, drawing and 3D software. He is a member of AAUGA in Boston, and has written articles for SIGGRAPH and AUGIWorld. Tom’s studio, Onion3D Design, is a consulting and animation studio located in South Boston, MA.

Figure 5: Asset Manager. Note absolute network paths beginning with \\ and the server name. Path names to a virtual drive might cause problems.

of just four. It was more of a render garden in hindsight, but still a start. Several types of plug-ins can be installed locally on one workstation and function properly. Typically they are object-management October 2011 45

special feature

CAD Management

By: Franklin R. Ryan

All About Licensing N

othing strikes fear into a CADD manager’s heart like those five little words… no, I am not talking about “We Need to Upgrade Again.” I am thinking much worse, the dreaded, “I Can’t Get a License!” As a CADD manager, your number one priority, along with software compliance, is to ensure that your users always have a license and can continue to work on billable projects.

Stand-alone Versus Network Licensing The easiest way to make certain your users can find a license is to use a stand-alone license for the software. Positive aspects of stand-alone licensing are that it’s less expensive to purchase compared to a network license, and your user is guaranteed to always have a license regardless of LAN, WAN, or Internet connections. As long as there is electrical power to the office, then your users are working on projects. But stand-alone licensing has pitfalls as well. While the cost to purchase a stand-alone license is less expensive than a network license, you need to place a stand-alone license on every workstation that has Autodesk software loaded on it, meaning even your part-time users need to have a license allocated specifically to their workstation. You will need to pay close attention to serial numbers. You not only need to make sure that the proper serial number is loaded onto each workstation, but you need to track and account for all of the legal documentation that proves you own the software.


While stand-alone licensing is a valid solution, it is probably not the best licensing solution if you have more than a handful of fulltime users or you have part-time users where a shared network license can serve multiple users. Since most business decisions are driven by cost, a network licensing solution is usually the preferred licensing method to share licenses within a LAN, WAN, or Internet (more on Internet licensing later). October 2011

While it’s true that network licenses are about 25 percent more expensive to purchase than stand-alone licenses, network licenses provide the immediate return of having the ability to legally load and use software on any workstation in your office. In addition, there is a single serial number to track and manage for a network license, meaning you can use the same software deployment on all your machines, and account for a single serial number when auditing. Let’s look at an example of an office with 10 AutoCAD® users. Half use the software full-time and half use it part-time (50 percent). You may think that it is more cost effective to install stand-alone seats on the full time users’ workstations, but think again. Consider that during the year those full-time users may take three weeks of vacation or personal time off work, take another week of sick time, and another two weeks or more to work on nonCAD-related items such as training, conferences, meetings, proposals, plotting, and so on. Figure the best case scenario is that your full time users are not using AutoCAD at various times for at least six full weeks out of the year, and consider that you have five full-time users, so now you have a seat of AutoCAD that is available for 30 weeks out of the year! If these are network licenses they can be used among the part-time AutoCAD users in the office, so maybe you need one additional network license to satisfy the demand of the part-time users. Suppose AutoCAD costs 100 units for a stand-alone seat and 125 units for a network license (25 percent increase). If you purchased 10 stand-alone seats the cost would be 1,000 units, but if you could meet demand with only seven network seats, then the cost would be 875 units. Obviously, the total number of licenses required is dependent on usage, but typically the larger group of users, the better the savings in network licensing versus stand-alone seats of software.

LAN, WAN, and Beyond When managing your Autodesk software portfolio it’s important to standardize your licensing with as many people as possible. Suppose you have Autodesk software users in 20 different offices (or sites). Do you want to have a license server in each location (that’s 20 servers) or do you want just a primary and a backup server? The best-case scenario is a primary license server and a backup server. The fewer the number of license servers the better—it’s less work to maintain, easy to standardize software distribution, and much easier to prove you are compliant since all workstations are configured similarly. Of course, you will need a reliable WAN or Internet connection in the offices. (More on that Internet connection later.) October 2011

When managing a group of users it’s important to enforce a couple of golden rules. These rules apply to both large and small groups and are critical to make your network licensing a success. No Stand-alone Licensing – If you come from a company that has used stand-alone licensing this may seem extreme, but in order to reap all of the cost benefits it’s critical for all users to use the network licensing. Consider a person who uses software for just four hours per day. This means that a stand-alone license is sitting unused the remainder of the time. Software is too expensive to let sit idle.

special feature

CAD Management

Restrict License Borrowing – The first thing a person from a stand-alone software environment inevitably asks is to “borrow” a software license. Think about it—if that license is 100 percent dedicated to the borrower on that computer, it’s just like a stand-alone license… except it’s a network license and it costs 25 percent more than the stand-alone seat. In some cases you will have to allow license borrowing, but the group should be restrictive by product name and version, the duration of the borrow period, and the user who is allowed to borrow the software. Your most expensive products should be borrowed the shortest length of time. Maybe that’s 48 hours, maybe a week; you need to decide what works best and train your users to the process. Remember, network licensing is 25 percent more expensive than a standalone seat, but if you can share a network license with two users instead of just one, then you are saving money and making the bean counters happy. These two simple rules can greatly reduce the number of licenses your organization needs. Converting a stand-alone license pool to a network license environment combined with the restrictions on license borrowing can easily cut the total number of licenses needed by 50 percent. While Autodesk will most likely not want you to reduce your seats on Subscription, consider it money in the bank since you may not need to purchase additional licenses until all the network licenses are in use.

Take Advantage of Technology Autodesk uses FLEXlm software to manage and share their licenses with users on the network. One of the first items you need to do before moving to a network licensing environment is to develop a plan. Where will your license servers be hosted and what type of license server model do you want to implement? FLEXlm offers a Redundant License Server model and a Distributed License Server Model to host network licenses. In order 47

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CAD Management

to use the Redundant model you need at least three servers on the network, and each of the servers hosts all of the licenses in your license pool. In order for a Redundant license server to share licenses it must be in contact with at least two other Redundant license servers. If the server cannot see at least two other servers, then the server will not share licenses. In theory, this sounds like a great model since all licenses are seemingly everywhere at the same time, but suppose you have a license server at one of your primary facilities and the office drops off the WAN. That server will no longer share licenses until it can contact at least two other servers, so the redundant method is not the best alternative for failover. The recommended method for sharing licenses is using a Distributed License Server model. The Distributed model allows the license pool to be split up and “distributed” among as many license servers as you wish. These license servers will always share the licenses they have available and they do not need to be in contact with another server in order to do so. If a Distributed license server is located in an office that drops off the WAN, the users in that office can still access licenses from the license server. Putting Distributed License Servers in your largest offices also provides immediate redundancy to your largest group of software users.

By: Franklin R. Ryan GNUL, MultiFlex, and the Internet-based FLEXlm Server One of the advantages of working for a large, global firm is the opportunity to work with Autodesk to pilot different types of licenses on different types of license servers in our quest to “Take Advantage of Technology.” There are two different licenses offered by Autodesk that we have used with great success. The first is the Global Network Use License or GNUL as it is commonly known. There is no real difference in a GNUL license versus a regular license from a technology point of view, except that Autodesk authorizes the GNUL seat for use in different countries as a true 24/7, “follow the sun” license. Imagine having users in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Kuwait who all need to use AutoCAD. Previously, we needed to purchase a license for each country, or six different licenses, but now with GNUL licensing we just need to supply a single license for all of those users. Of course, GNUL licenses are more expensive, but not so expensive that we do not save a considerable amount of money and resources using the GNUL licensing.

Autodesk software can be configured to look at a group of license servers in a particular order so you always have access to the entire license portfolio. This means you look at the primary server first, and if a license is not available or the server is unreachable, then the next license server in the list is searched, and so on until a license is granted or there are no additional servers on the list. Autodesk recommends using the ADSKFLEX_LICENSE_ FILE variable to define the license server search path. The LM_LICENSE _FILE and LICPATH.LIC file are also valid methods of defining the license server, but the ADSKFLEX_LICENSE_FILE will always take priority against these other methods as it delivers more consistent performance.

The other license we have implemented is called a MultiFlex license. This is very similar to the “suite-based” licensing that Autodesk is currently selling, except the MultiFlex license covers almost the complete Autodesk product line. Instead of having separate licenses for AutoCAD, Revit Architecture, 3ds Max Design, Civil 3D, or any other product, a single MultiFlex license will issue a valid token for any of those products. Once again, the MultiFlex licensing is more expensive than any other product, and Autodesk will only sell it as part of an overall license management scheme, but the returns are tremendous in terms of cost and labor savings. There is no need to balance the license pool as users migrate from one product to another, and the MultiFlex is a GNUL license so it provides any license, anytime, anywhere.

If you choose to move to a Distributed License Server model you will also want to make friends with the FLEXLM_TIMEOUT environment variable. This variable works to give the license server an extended period of time to share the software license with the client. Setting the FLEXLM_TIMEOUT variable to 200000 (about 2 seconds) should resolve most latency issues, but we have set the variable as high as 500000 in some extreme cases, mostly for Autodesk® Revit® products.

The beauty of GNUL and MultiFlex licensing is that it greatly reduces the number of servers needed for host licensing across your global WAN. But what happens if an office loses its WAN connections, or what about project or joint venture offices that do not have access to the corporate WAN? How can you take advantage of technology to provide additional redundancy and provide licensing for sites? One option is to create a backup license server for each office location, but this might not be the best solution because you will have to manage the individual servers, the FLEXlm software, and


October 2011

coordinate license files for all of your locations. However, there are other options and one agreeable method we piloted with Autodesk is to create a virtual FLEXlm license server and use a virtual player, such as VMware, to initiate the virtual server as required. By setting up a task to monitor if the local office dropped off the network, we automatically start the VM player and the instance of FLEXlm to share licenses with the local office staff. Once the task monitor indicated that the network connection was restored then the VM player is automatically turned off and users once again accessed licenses from their primary license servers. Because the VM player is configured to be on the LAN and does not reside in Active Directory, the virtual servers are never recognized by the WAN and the same FLEXlm server instance can be used in all locations, meaning less work to maintain just a single system. If there is a negative aspect to using the VMware for a local office backup, it is that you must copy a license for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 for each location where you intend to run the VMware player. Another option for providing addition redundancy to licensing is a very simple approach, but once again we worked closely with Autodesk to pilot this solution. While WANs are typically sealed tight as a drum to the outside world, imagine if you had access to a FLEXlm license server that was available via the Internet.

the client workstation. This variable must be defined on both the server and the workstation. If the variable does not exactly match, then the server will not share a license with that workstation. The LM_PROJECT variable can be defined on the server so that you can have multiple “projects” defined at any one time, meaning you can have a different value defined for each project office or even down to the individual user if you need to limit usage at that level. The variable can be reset as often as needed, and can also be used to track and report on usage by “project.” When a project ends, you just remove the variable on the server and the client workstations will no longer have access to a license.

approval from Autodesk.

One final, important note: any change in your current licensing structure should be discussed and approved by Autodesk prior to making any changes on your system. We discuss many good ideas in this article, but they cannot be used without express

Software Compliancy Software compliance is serious business. It is your responsibility as a CADD manager to ensure that your workstations are compliant. Simplifying the management of your licensing is a great step in the right direction, and combined with a plan to run regular reports from the Autodesk Software Management Toolkit, you are well on your way to ending those dreadful “I Can’t Get a License!” complaints. Frank Ryan is a corporate CADD Manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world’s leading planning, engineering, and program and construction management organizations. A global firm with more than 5000 Autodesk users actively working on projects, Frank currently manages the global licensing for Autodesk software and the CADD Services Group within the Americas, including licensing, support, training and product implementations for Autodesk and other CADD software. Parsons Brinckerhoff is also an Autodesk Authorized Training Center (ATC), one of just a few engineering firms worldwide to be qualified as an ATC. Frank can be reached at

Imagine being anywhere in the world and as long as you can connect to the Internet you can access a network version of Autodesk software from your corporate license pool. This is the perfect licensing solution for project offices, staff traveling or at a client site, or even a standard office that loses its WAN connection and is on a backup DSL line to the Internet. Once again, this FLEXlm Internet solution was piloted under the guidance and full approval of Autodesk. Hosting a FLEXlm license server on the Internet works, and works great! Obviously, the main issue with an outwardly facing server is security, and since the FLEXlm server will be available to the public how can you best limit access to your precious Autodesk licenses? Going back to one of our golden rules, restrict license borrowing on the Internet license server, lock it down so tight that nobody can borrow a license. The other item you need is to define the LM_PROJECT variable on both the Internet license server and October 2011

special feature

CAD Management 49


f you’ve visited recently, then you’ve seen a highly visible improvement in AUGI’s member interface. But one of the most exciting features is still flying under the radar and that is the Library. The Library is the home for articles and whitepapers that the membership contribute to the organization. There is a tremendous amount of material generated by members and until now that content ‘shelf life’ was pretty short. Since magazines come out monthly, an article’s time in the spotlight is brief. Well, no longer! As issues of AUGIWorld, AUGI | AEC EDGE are replaced by new ones, the staff at AUGI will be posting article content on the website in HTML. The magazine PDFs will stay, of course. Consider the AUGI Library a new area to read some great content. Finding articles from past issues is a breeze, because searching and categorization can now be applied to these articles. In addition, the Library is the real home for AUGI HotNews, an email-based monthly publication.

Been to the Library? A

Are you ready to write?

UGI, through the contributions of members, produces monthly magazines such as AUGIWorld. Well the articles in these magazines don’t grow on trees! The content comes from members willing to contribute. If you are an AUGI member, you probably use an Autodesk product. Do you know your product pretty well? Have you ever sat down with someone else to explain how Paper Space works, or how to explode polylines, or customize the CUI? These messages you share casually with others are the same messages that others outside of your area need to hear. Just imagine… even though you have been using AutoCAD since R9, today, somewhere in the world, someone started using AutoCAD for the first time. And that expert level change you made to

your CUI to work better with your PGP today? Tomorrow someone else will begin that exercise as well and you could save them some time with your insight. So, get out there and join the fun – contribute to your magazines and your fellow members. Share your knowledge and expertise with beginners and advanced users alike. People are ready to hear what you have to say. For more details contact


October 2011 issue


October 2011 issue